- Black Caviar arrives in England to compete in Royal Ascot next week
- Set to make English debut run in Diamond Jubilee Stakes on June 23
- Australian mare has undefeated career statistics of 21 wins from 21 starts
- Overseas trip has drawn comparisons with Phar Lap
London is bracing itself for a deluge of sporting egos as the best athletes in the world descend on the British capital for the Olympic Games. But an hour away, in the sleepy town of Newmarket, Suffolk, the biggest diva of all has already landed.
When the best sprinter in the world rolls into town, you would expect a hefty entourage to follow. But even Usain Bolt doesn't come with an official traveling party of 150. However, Jamaica's Olympic champion is not Black Caviar.
Black Caviar is the epitome of a modern sporting superstar: athletic, invincible, marketable. The only thing out of the ordinary about this athlete is that she is a horse.
The world's most popular racehorse has arrived in England to compete at this month's Royal Ascot -- arguably the world's most recognizable race meeting and avidly watched by the Queen of England.
The queen of the turf made the long journey off the back of an undefeated career of 21 wins in 21 starts in her native Australia. She has inspired a fanatical following in the sports-mad country, where she has her own Twitter account, Facebook page, blog and shop, where fans can purchase such necessities as Black Caviar's own-brand shampoo (How do you keep your tail so shiny?)
As such, the horse has been accorded VIP status for her first trip away from her home country; most "air stables" (the adapted cargo pallets which routinely transport racehorses around the world) accommodate three animals. Sometimes, just two horses travel together, a sort of equine business class. One horse per stall is considered first class. Black Caviar made the 30-hour journey solo, the only horse on the plane.
Boarding the jet in her now-famous body suit (inspired by the compression suits used by human athletes such as Aussie hurdler Sally Pearson), Black Caviar -- who is affectionately known as "Nelly" -- was accompanied on the flight by her personal track rider and veterinary surgeon to make sure she remained relaxed during transit.
The overseas tour has inevitably drawn comparisons with Phar Lap, the legendary New Zealand-born stayer who became one of the earliest stars of the television age when he traveled to the Americas to seek his fortune after dominating Australian racing in the early 1930s. But even Phar Lap never commanded the frenzied attention that accompanies Black Caviar's every move.
When she took her first tentative steps off the Singapore Airlines 747 at Heathrow last week she was probably only dimly aware that she had flown into the biggest media circus the racing world has seen since the days when the Francois Boutin-trained Arazi drew crowds of reporters from both sides of the Atlantic when embarking on his three-year-old campaign in Europe in 1992.
Black Caviar cannot be said to be unaccustomed to the attention; thousands of fans flock to see the wonder mare every time she races, many dressed in her signature salmon and black silks (the distinctive black dots represent the "caviar" in her name).
It's a scene that is likely to be repeated when she makes her English debut in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 23, when a record crowd of 80,000 people is expected to pack the Queen's racecourse.
A sizable Australian contingent will be out in force, but for once it won't be the ubiquitous gold and green colors that accompany Australian athletes of every stripe as they exert their sporting dominance around the world, but salmon and black.
Get ready, Royal Ascot -- the queen of racing is coming to you.