Black Caviar + Salmon + Polka dots =
the pin-up girl of world racing who puts on breathtaking displays of speed.
She is an iconic Carousel Girl.
On a river that turned to gold ~ the story of Black Caviar’s owners
The Black Caviar story began on a houseboat in Echuca. Each February, for as long as any of them can remember, long-time friends Colin and Jannene Madden, Gary and Kerryn Wilkie and Neil Werrett have hired a houseboat at Echuca. The five families, who go back as far as kindergarten, have gathered for an annual water-skiing trip. The tradition of enjoying summer at the popular town on the Murray River gained momentum each year as the families expanded.
The 2007 trip by the group, , was no different to any other, besides Sydney-based businessman Werrett’s insistence that the group “get organised” and buy a racehorse. ”Neil thought it would be great if we all raced one together — as much as an excuse to have lunch,” Gary Wilkie said.
On the same annual houseboat holiday the following February, Werrett’s original idea had become a firm commitment. So they put Caulfield trainer Peter Moody on the case and after a time, Moody discovered the horse. And within weeks, the commitment had a price tag and a pedigree, but not a name.
He called businessman Neil Werrett with the news. ”Peter rang and missed Neil but I took the call and he explained that he’d found a filly that would suit our needs,” Gary Wilkie recalled. ”And I can still remember how really upbeat he was about a yearling by Bel Esprit that was being offered at the Melbourne sales … I could tell from Peter’s voice that he was pretty keen on this filly.”
Moody said: ”Honestly, she was a cracking yearling. She just grabbed me the moment I saw her and I identified in her everything you want for a racehorse of the future. ”I was aware that $210,000 was a lot to pay but she was related to Magnus who I trained and at the time of the sale was going so well so this really balanced it up.”
Hours later and the water-skiing families had bought themselves a well-grown filly. ”Some of us have had horses before and we’re never under any illusions that while you can get a good horse there’s plenty of chances you’ll get a slow one and there’s nothing worse than paying up for an ordinary galloper,” Wilkie said. ”But we had confidence in Peter and I think by having the five families involved it has just strengthened our friendship.”
Pam Hawkes, a Mornington Peninsula spud farmer (and Jannene Madden’s sister) came on board and named the filly. Hawkes had a penchant for black caviar and other seafood. The Bel Esprit filly’s grandmother was Scandinavia.
“Helsinge, the name of Black Caviar’s mother, was in Scandinavia
and that’s where the salmon live.”
Wilkie’s daughter came up with the colours — salmon with black spots (caviar).
David Taylor, a Melbourne real estate agent, was invited to join the group by Wilkie, a mate. ”I’m the lucky guy who got the call,” Taylor said. Taylor faced a major hurdle — his wife. He said: “Jill wouldn’t have a bar of it — ‘You’re not buying a stupid bloody racehorse’, she said. She refused to do the bank transaction into Gary’s account, so I had to sneak around to the bank and do it myself. Now my horse is my wife’s horse.”
Taylor’s wife’s horse is now Australia’s horse. Soon, the world may lay claim to Black Caviar. Black Caviar, with those flag-fluttering fans, who form queues to have cards signed by her trainer, is the Sunline and Makybe Diva of her time. Her owners and their friends and family have become a logistics-challenging, race-day army of about 60. Each owner uses the same sentiment to describe the journey.
Wilkie says: “You can’t imagine it. It’s a little surreal. You see the way she affects people, this animal we have equity in, and you just think, ‘How lucky am I’?”
Hawkes: “Besides my husband and children, Black Caviar is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It is a dream come true to have this beautiful horse.”
Werrett: “Every owner in this horse feels as much pressure. One emailed me the other day at 5am and said, ‘I can’t sleep’. On race day, I’m a nervous wreck. There is more and more pressure every time she wins a race. I want that pressure to continue.”
Colin Madden, a lawyer, said Black Caviar initially appealed to him not because of who she was but because of the AFL team she was linked to. Madden is a Bombers fan. Black Caviar’s sire is part-owned by Kevin Sheedy. ”I know bugger all about horses, but I’ll hop into anything involved with Essendon,” he said.
“It’s so remarkable, it’s almost absurd. There has been a dynamic
I’ve never understood, the way people have warmed to her. She is re-defining our lives.”