On the pre-dawn tarmac of Melbourne Airport, Black Caviar stretched her legs before her black travel suit was removed and she was led into quarantine.
The champion returned to Australia having clocked up 22 unbeaten wins at Royal Ascot in a nose-bitingly close finish and torn muscles. Now, as a red carpet parade is planned for the super horse to celebrate her success, the question is whether she will retire or risk her record and further injury at this year’s Spring Carnival.
It’s a decision that will ultimately be made by her owners, rather than her trainer Peter Moody, who bought the champion for $210,000 at the Swettenham Stud draft for the Premier Yearling Sale.
Black Caviar is now owned by a syndicate of friends: Colin and Jannene Madden; Gary and Kerryn Wilkie and Neil Werrett; Jannene’s sister Pam Hawkes; and Melbourne real estate agent David Taylor, who joked that his wife said at the time, “you aren’t buying a bloody racehorse” given that they often cost, rather than make a fortune. Wilkie has commented that he’s still amazed he has equity in such a horse.
Speaking for the syndicate after Royal Ascot, Colin Madden said he was confident she would continue to race in the Spring Carnival. However, her value remains in her unbeaten record and must be balanced against the fact she is six years old – usually a seniors’ card for a racehorse.
In racing alone, Black Caviar has delivered the syndicate a $5 million return in wins. She has a Facebook site (Black Caviar “athlete”, 19,141 likes); Twitter account, and a Black Caviar online shop where you can buy anything from official posters, t-shirts, cufflinks, keyrings, hats and magnets to replica silks ($795).
According to the Black Caviar official website, all profits made by the fan merchandise is donated to the Olivia Newton John Cancer Centre.
If she is retired, bloodstock agent Peter Ford, who bought Black Caviar’s mother Helsinge for owner Rick Jamieson, declares that she will be “the most valuable mare in the world”.
But her ability to only have one million dollar baby per year will ultimately cap her value, compared to champion stallions such as Black Caviar’s brother All Too Hard, who can potentially have over 120 foals a year and command six figure fees.
“If she was a colt, you couldn’t begin to value her,” says Ford.
All Too Hard is already worth over $10 million because of future breeding potential.
Breeder Ric Jamieson, owner of Black Caviar’s mother Helsinge, has also done exceedingly well from demand for Black Caviar’s super siblings, which bodes well for Black Caviar’s future babies if she joins her mother to breed.
At the 2012 Inglis Australian Easter Sales, Sydney, Black Caviar’s younger sister (nicknamed Pippa for her admired rump like that of her big sister) set a record of $2.6 million, more than double what Tinkler, owner of Patinack Farm, paid for All Too Hard the previous year.
“We weren’t surprised by the price the filly fetched,” said Peter Beer from Patinack Farm.
Neither will anyone be surprised if Black Caviar is retired before Spring.