The inspiration which New Zealand's smallest breeders will gain from our spectacular results at Royal Ascot last week will be priceless, says the man entrusted with keeping their dreams alive.
Even without knowing the result of this morning's Diamond Jubilee Stakes (2.45am), and whether Black Caviar managed to keep her unbeaten record intact, New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Association chief executive Mike Martin rated the week as unprecedented for the local industry.
In the most celebrated racing week of the year in Britain, attended by royalty and celebrities from all over, New Zealand produced its first group one winners in Little Bridge and So You Think.
"We've never had a group one winner at Royal Ascot before so it's been a remarkable couple of nights watching first a sprint winner then one over a middle distance," Martin said.
That Little Bridge could win the Kings Stand Stakes and So You Think the Prince of Wales Stakes was continued proof that New Zealand could produce world class horses.
But, as well as being a great return on the millions spent by New Zealand Bloodstock and NZ Thoroughbred Marketing to promote our industry overseas, and entice northern hemisphere buyers here, it equally provided a much needed inspiration for ma and pa breeders throughout the country.
"It's my job to keep their passion alive to breed and race horses and there's so much competition for the discretionary dollar these days so being able to see these results is fantastic.
"It's a great Kiwi story that the Hawkins family bred and sold Little Bridge as a weanling for $9000 and he's won the Kings Stand from a Hong Kong stable."
Even today Little Bridge's sire, Faltaat, stands at Westbury Stud, south Auckland, for only $5000.
"The Hawkins had no knowledge of racing when they came here from Wales but now they operate Wentwood Grange Stud near Cambridge."
But it's the impact that Royal Ascot will have on even smaller breeders that really excites Martin – inspiring them to believe they too can achieve the same great results.
"Maybe they're not producing the commercially viable horses to sell offshore but they're a nursery our domestic racing relies on."
Figures from 2010 showed that of the 2647 broodmares who had returns to the Stud Book, 2052 were from breeders with only one or two mares, and 1513 had just a single mare.
That's why Martin was pleased to see successful lobbying for the New Zealand Racing Board to extend the TAB's middle-of-the-night coverage of Royal Ascot.
"Covering a meeting like this is more than just churning of betting money. We have to hold people in the breeding industry and keep their passion for the future.
"There's no doubt New Zealand does produce an outstanding thoroughbred product – and it's because we're blessed with our climate and our people."
Martin and his partner Susan Archer, who sold So You Think's dam Triassic for $4000 in a breeding partnership dispersal in the 1980s, were particularly delighted to see the former Cox Plate winner reach his full potential in the Prince Of Wales Stakes, the horse's 10th Group I win, and fifth since his sale from the Melbourne stable of Bart Cummings to Coolmore Stud more than 18 months ago.
So You Think, now six, is to be retired to Coolmore Stud in Australia's Hunter Valley in the spring but trainer Aidan O'Brien is keen to attempt a second win in the Coral-Eclipse first.
And with the July 7 race also a potential target for the unbeaten Frankel, who romped to an 11-length win in the Queen Anne Stakes, the prospect of a Hail Mary finish is appealing.
O'Brien hinted that he wouldn't be afraid to take on Frankel whose win earned him a Timeform ranking of 147, the highest in its 64- year history, eclipsing the 145 held by Sea Bird, winner of the 1965 English Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The highest-rated Australian horses have been Tulloch (138) and Black Caviar (136).
For a racehorse that has had only 11 starts, it seems an absurd ranking, but there are many experts ready to rate Frankel the greatest racehorse of them all.
Gary Crispe, the head of Timeform in Australia, was at Ascot and he was adamant Frankel's new rating was correct.
"A winning margin of 11 lengths against the best milers in Europe was devastating, leaving his rivals with broken hearts."
Crispe said Frankel's win would put an end to any possible clash with Black Caviar.
"There is no doubt this is the best horse the racing world has ever seen or is likely to see."
But all the indications last night were that Black Caviar could produce something in the same vein as Frankel, with trainer Peter Moody rating her at absolute peak and giving a strong hint that it would be her only England appearance.
Moody said Black Caviar would have nothing more to prove to the British racing public if she made it 22 wins in a row.
"My gut feeling is if she gets the job done, the job is done. Why would we need to see her again?"
"I have two contingency plans," he said. "One is that she will go into quarantine on Sunday morning or if we want to leave the option open for the July Cup, we can put that off for a couple of weeks.
"But if you are a betting man and are asking me at the moment, I would suggest there's every chance she will go into quarantine."
That would allow Black Caviar to return to Australia early next month and give Moody ample time to prepare her for a Melbourne spring campaign.
For plenty of thought goes into the mare's racing – the Ascot mission was 15 months in the planning and it has come with a backroom team that would do credit to a champion golfer. Only a psychologist is absent from the entourage.
That Black Caviar risked her unbeaten run of 21 on the other side of the world is down to the enthusiasm of her owners, who officially number eight yet have mushroomed to 115 this week.
Garry Wilkie summed up their thinking. "This is the home of racing – 300 years of racing," he said. "We just thought we had the horse, we had the opportunity and we wanted to be part of it. It wasn't too difficult a decision."
Left to his own devices, Moody, 42, might have begged to differ.
Moody is the one who has had to prepare the horse under a glare of publicity unmatched in turf history. Black Caviar has had a constant escort of press and photographers. Two books are being written about her and TV and film rights are being fought over. There is a merchandise industry and the latest novelty is a London taxi decked out in her salmon-pink colours.
Moody, whose stable is the most powerful in Australia, has consciously compartmentalised all this, not least for the sake of 300 other horses in his care. But it has still exhausted him. He delayed his own arrival in England and has successfully dodged most media demands. "When I've had enough, I let people know," Moody said. "I just pull up the shutters."
Moody's roots are in Queensland, a land of few pretensions and no artifice. "I'm pretty black and white," he said. "There's not much grey with me. Really, I'm the quintessential Aussie who thinks we've got the best racing and asks why we need to come over here to show our wares."
Gratuitously insulting of Goodwood, where a match with Frankel was mooted, Moody allows greater deference where Ascot is concerned – though he was not beyond a barb about racing "inferior horses for inferior prize money".
But, decked out in top hat and tails today, even he expected to be moved if his mare in a million justified the odds of $1.30 that most of her southern hemisphere fans considered outrageously generous.
- © Fairfax NZ News