Matt Stewart story in the Herald Sun tells of the fairytale of a group of friends, who go back as far as Kindergarten who agreed to buy a racehorse, who is now the fastest horse in the world.
OF all the houseboats, on all the rivers this is the one you should have been on.
This group of friends should have been yours, this horse they own -- the fastest on earth -- should have been yours, too. If only?
Each February, for as long as any of them can remember, long-time friends Colin and Jannene Madden, Gary and Kerryn Wilkie and Neil Werrett have hired a houseboat at Echuca.
The 2007 trip by the group, who go back as far as kindergarten, was no different to any other, besides Sydney- based businessman Werrett's insistence that the group "get organised" and buy a racehorse.
"Neil thought it would be great if we all raced one together -- as much as an excuse to have lunch," Gary Wilkie said.
On the same boat the next February, Werrett's idea had become a commitment. And within weeks, the commitment had a price tag and a pedigree, but not a name.
Peter Moody had just spent $210,000 on a big lump of a filly by Bel Esprit at the Melbourne Premier yearling sales.
Werrett had raced horses with Moody, who advised Werrett to form a syndicate.
Pam Hawkes, a Mornington Peninsula spud farmer (and Jannene Madden's sister) came on board and named the filly. Hawkes had a penchant for black caviar and other seafood. The Bel Esprit filly's grandmother was Scandinavia.
"Helsinge, the name of Black Caviar's mother, was in Scandinavia and that's where the salmon live. It made sense," Hawkes said.
Wilkie's daughter came up with the colours -- salmon with black spots (caviar).
David Taylor, a Melbourne real estate agent, was invited to join the group by Wilkie, a mate. "I'm the lucky guy who got the call," Taylor said.
Taylor faced a major hurdle -- his wife.
He said: "Jill wouldn't have a bar of it -- 'You're not buying a stupid bloody racehorse', she said. She refused to do the bank transaction into Gary's account, so I had to sneak around to the bank and do it myself. Now my horse is my wife's horse."
Taylor's wife's horse is now Australia's horse. Soon, the world may lay claim to Black Caviar.
Black Caviar, with those flag-fluttering fans, who form queues to have cards signed by her trainer, is the Sunline and Makybe Diva of her time.
Her owners and their friends and family have become a logistics-challenging, race-day army of about 60. Each owner uses the same sentiment to describe the journey.
Wilkie says: "You can't imagine it. It's a little surreal. You see the way she affects people, this animal we have equity in, and you just think, 'How lucky am I'?"
Hawkes: "Besides my husband and children, Black Caviar is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It is a dream come true to have this beautiful horse."
Werrett: "Every owner in this horse feels as much pressure. One emailed me the other day at 5am and said, 'I can't sleep'. On race day, I'm a nervous wreck. There is more and more pressure every time she wins a race. I want that pressure to continue."
Colin Madden, a lawyer, said Black Caviar initially appealed to him not because of who she was but because of the AFL team she was linked to.
Madden is a Bombers fan. Black Caviar's sire is part-owned by Kevin Sheedy.
"I know bugger all about horses, but I'll hop into anything involved with Essendon," he said.
"It's so remarkable, it's almost absurd. There has been a dynamic I've never understood, the way people have warmed to her. She is re-defining our lives."
Like Wilkie, who sweats up more than his horse on race day, Taylor may describe the experience as something between pleasure and pain.
"The anxiety (before she races on a Saturday) starts on Thursday and starts to ease about today (Wednesday). She takes you out of the real world, for sure," he said. "You read a headline that says the fastest horse in the world and you say, 'Hang on, I've got a bit of that'. It's hard to describe that feeling."
You didn't have to be on that houseboat holiday, or know someone who was, to feel part of this story. Black Caviar's legitimate owners say they are privileged to share her.
Wilkie said: "We're having a fantastic time. Why can't everyone else enjoy her?"
Before her first trial, Moody advised the group they had something special.
"How special, we don't know. That's what Peter said," Madden said.
Wilkie said the privilege of owning the world's greatest sprinter was best realised at quiet times, away from the whirr of the racetrack, the fans, with their flags; and the anxiety that makes him sweat like a horse in a heat wave.
"You go to the races and you are in awe of what she does," he said.
"But I come down and sit down with a glass of Scotch and watch the replay about 67 times. That's the timeyou reflect on what all this means."