“It should have been a celebration of one of the greatest horses we have ever seen… My ride being the story of the day didn’t sit well with me. Unfortunately, that’s my cross to bear.” Luke Nolen press conference, Thursday 28th June, 2012.
It was with a mixture of relief and despair that I reflected on Luke Nolen’s immediate post race comments after his win on Black Caviar in last weekend’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Relief because, as a radio presenter/journalist, it was refreshing to see and hear Luke Nolen’s honesty with his post-race remarks upon returning to scale.
The despair has been at how Nolen has been slammed from pillar to post in some quarters for admitting that easing the champion Mare down close to the line was a brain-fade.
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool cynic. As a consequence, most post-match press conferences in almost any sport you care to name – to me anyway – are 20-minute cliché-fests. The scribes involved will try numerous ways to get coaches, players and officials to say something vaguely interesting before the relevant gatekeepers step in and declare proceedings closed. The next day’s papers, blogs and video sites carry quotes and reactions with all the color and excitement of a “how to” video on lighting a match or mixing paint.
Every now and then though comes a moment of refreshing honesty; those gems when the subject of a media scrum will pull a mea culpa (Nolen); slam an official (just about any Ricky Stuart presser during his time as boss at Cronulla) or an opponent (Campbell Brown on Matthew Lloyd).
These moments are sadly few and far between. As Nolen will no doubt attest to after the weekend, it is understandable why sports fans are – and will continue to be – subjected to beige, inoffensive cliché riddled pre and post match briefings from those involved.
Such is the fascination of some reporters and commentators, – and more so their readers and viewers – with negatives and sensationalising the trivial, that Nolen is still answering to the brain-fade line of questioning almost seven days after the event. The view is always good from the cheap seats and sadly, those who have the cheapest seats are often the ones who do the most complaining.
Leaving aside the fact that Black Caviar injured herself in the run – for no one at Moody Racing is using it as an excuse; indeed, it makes her win all the more remarkable – it would be understandable to think that Black Caviar lost the Diamond Jubilee Stakes by a comprehensive margin, but the fact is that SHE WON.
Sure, discuss Luke’s poor judgement, but it is galling that the ride has overtaken the feat of Nelly. Whether you win by a nose or win by 10 lengths, the result is still the same. Ridiculous ‘exotics’ betting markets aside, the pay-out to punters is still the same ($1.04 on most Totes). Connections still receive the same amount of prize-money and the size of the trophy or plate doesn’t increase or decrease in correlation to the final margin past the post.
Black Caviar’s record is still 22-0 Nolen may have blundered, but the fact is that the records will still show Black Caviar as winner at Group One level in Australia and in England. It is a feat few horses have been able to achieve. It deserves to be the story, but sadly it is not.
Congratulations to Nelly, Moody Racing, Luke Nolen and Black Caviar’s connections. None of you have anything to prove. She is the best horse Australia has seen for sometime and the only debate I’m interesting in reading about is if she’s the best EVER, not about the ride. Enjoy the triumph of your week at Ascot. It is well deserved.