Jockey Luke Nolen’s actions have been labelled “The blunder from Down Under” after he eased down Black Caviar over the concluding stages of the Group 1 £500,000 The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6 furlongs) at Royal Ascot on Saturday.
Black Caviar looked like she had her twenty-second successive win in her sights when Nolen dropped his hands on the mighty mare approaching the finish line and put a scare through the Black Caviar team when Moonlight Cloud got to within a head of lowering the Australia flag at Royal Ascot.
England’s premier racing paper, Racing Post, had as it’s headline, “The blunder from Down Under! Black Caviar wins despite jockey error” and journalist Tom Kerr went on to write “Black Caviar came within a whisker of losing her unbeaten record after jockey Luke Nolen dropped his hands in the closing stages and almost allowed Moonlight Cloud to steal the race on the line.”
The 77,000 strong crowd and millions around the world screamed out with relief when Black Caviar’s number went up and there was no one more relieved than Nolen who knew that his error in judgement could have ended the mighty mares winning streak.
Nolen was apologetic to connections when he returned to the winner’s enclosure but recovered and was smiling when he received his winning trophy from The Queen.
“I underestimated the testing track of Ascot. She’d had enough and that big engine throttled right down,” Nolen said.
“I let her idle. I thought she’d coast and I made a mistake every apprentice is taught to avoid. It’s unfortunate, because we’re going to talk more about my brain failure than the horse’s fantastic effort.”
“She’s twenty-two from twenty-two and it doesn’t matter how far she won by, but it was heart-in-mouth sort of stuff. I thought I’d done enough but I did need some confirmation. Imagine if I’d got beat. I’d have probably been stabbed!”
Winning trainer Peter Moody was just ecstatic to see Black Caviar get the photo decision by a head and was on hand to greet Nolen and his mighty mare on their return to the winner’s stall.
“You have only got to win by a quarter of an inch,” he said. “We never expect dominance. We never ask her for dominance. She is twenty-two from twenty-two – it is never about margins and never about dominance. I am an extremely proud Australian. Words can’t describe the feeling,” Moody said.
Champion Australian jockey Roy Higgins recalls when he dropped his hands on Melbourne Cup winner Hyperno in the 1978 Moonee Valley Cup and was beaten by Clear Day and was subsequently suspended for two and a half months.
Higgins regards that as one of the blackest days of his illustrious career and is glad that Nolen was able to get away with a better result than he did.
“Thank God she won. As it is, Luke will have many a sleepless night over the next year and will wake up in a muck lather on several nights dreaming about it, but imagine if he lost on her,” Higgins said.
“I still can’t escape what I did then, even today.”