When Phar Lap wasn’t busy winning Melbourne Cups and single-handedly feeding Australians during the 1930s depression, rumour has it the big-hearted chestnut once kicked hay in the face of strapper Tommy Woodcock.
That’s not to denigrate a legend, but to point out that the more oustanding the sporting superstar, the more likely they will have some kind of personality defect.
Overnight, journalist Ben Dorries broke the excellent story that players in the 1970s didn’t get along with Don Bradman, the cricket legend turned administrator widely regarded as the world’s greatest ever batsman. In fact, half the reason Kerry Packer’s breakaway World Series Cricket was so successful was because of anti-Bradman sentiment.
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Black Caviar’s jockey Luke Nolen almost stuffed up big time last night, and the English race caller didn’t miss it. “Oh, he almost blew it!” the caller shrieked, his voice up a whole octave as the horses crossed the line at Royal Ascot with Black Caviar a bare head in front.
Nolen almost did blow it too. About 100m before the post, he eased up on Black Caviar. He did this not out of arrogance or disrespect for the chasers, but out of respect for Black Caviar, After an arduous Australian autumn campaign, the mare travelled to England with a settling-in period considerably shorter than the northern raiders who come and steal our Melbourne Cup.
Nolen could have continued to wield the whip and extract that little bit extra out of Black Caviar for a more decisive margin. Instead, he looked after the horse’s welfare. Too much effort in a single race can break a horse’s spirit forever. You see it all the time. That was the last thing Nolen wanted to do.
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In racing, the term “pie eater” is an old-fashioned, gently derogatory term for hard-bitten punters. Pies are all they can afford after their weekly pay cheque has yet again put Sunday roast on the bookies’ dinner tables.
Well, the pie eaters of Australia have suddenly developed a taste for Black Caviar. That’s Black Caviar, the mighty mare who this week made it 18 wins from 18 starts in her most devastating racetrack outing yet.
Black Caviar attracted 20,000 infatuated racegoers to Caulfield on Saturday, the majority decked out in her salmon-and-black racing colours. Twenty thousand, to a race meeting which would usually attract a quarter that many. With the gates sensibly thrown open for free, they flocked to see the champion, who paraded around as if she knew she was just that.
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In 1992, a 20 year old from Florida made surfing history. Kelly Slater qualified for the quarter finals of the Alternativa Surf International in Rio to claim the World Title.
The American media had high hopes, looking to him to be the next Tom Curren and when asked about reaching the same kind of highs as his surfing idol’s career, Slater, slightly camera shy and still unassuming about his future replied, “I don’t know, I’m not really thinking about that right now, I’m just thinking about having won the World Title, and hopefully winning another one someday”.
Nineteen years and 10 World Titles later… Kid Kelly is now King Kelly.
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