“It’s beginning to feel like it was all a long time ago but we’re still really, really proud of her.”
Pam Hawkes is reminiscing while on her way to Wagga to see one of her horses run. She doesn’t give it much hope, but she saw it born five years ago and wild horses couldn’t keep her away. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s at Mornington on a midweek race or Wagga tomorrow, it’s just fantastic. We get just as much thrill watching her run as we did watching Black Caviar.”
It has been almost four years since Black Caviar ran her last race – the TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick. It was her 25th win from 25 starts and her 15th Group 1 win – both records – and her brilliant career captivated the racing world and delighted the group of lifetime friends who for years had talked about owning a racehorse. “We used to go to the Melbourne Cup and we’d say ‘Gee, we should get a horse together; it’d be a lot of fun’.”
One day, with Pam stuck on her vegetable farm at Boneo, the others called her from the Murray River houseboat on which they’d all stay and said they were going to buy a horse. “I said ‘I’m in but I only want a fast one’, so they took me at my word and got a fast one.”
The eight syndicate members each suggested three names for the filly and everyone voted; Pam’s suggestion – inspired by her love of caviar - got up. “You’ve got to have a catchy name for people to take notice of, and it worked. We’re very fond of champagne as well and you always hope you’ll have an excuse to celebrate; we haven’t had that much caviar because, by gum, it’s expensive but we’ve had plenty of opportunities to celebrate with champagne.”
Pam’s love of horses goes way back to growing up on a farm in Keysborough, where she used to watch her grandfather’s Clydesdales plough the fields and ride the Shetland he bought for her, so it’s no surprise she saw all Black Caviar’s races and went to every trial. One of her favourites is the Lightning Stakes at Flemington in February 2013, the mare’s return from injury sustained during her triumph at Ascot eight months earlier.
“We’d virtually written her off; we left Ascot thinking we’ve got a brood mare. But she just jumped and ran and broke the track record and just blew everybody away. It was just fantastic.”
Another highlight was the TJ Smith at Randwick in April 2011, when she made up seven lengths on Hay List, the second-highest rated sprinter in the world. “It was phenomenal.”
The same group of friends are now racing Black Caviar’s first foal, Oscietra, who ran third in her first start on New Year’s Day at Flemington, but they still occasionally visit the grand dam and get regular updates from the stud where she is in foal again. “The last one we got was to say how magnificent she’s looking and she’s never looked better.”
Pam Hawkes will address the Frankston Business Network in the Mornington Racing Club’s Gunamatta Room on March 8, 11.30am-2.30pm. Tickets (including a two-course lunch, champagne on arrival, and tea and coffee) cost $69 ($65 for FBN members; $625 for a table of 10). Bookings: www.frankstonbusinessnetwork.com.au or 9781 1422.