RACING enthusiasts and sports fans alike will be able to see champion mare Black Caviar free of charge when the world's best sprinter attempts to add to her 17-run unbeaten streak in the C.F. Orr Stakes at Caulfield on February 11.
In an extraordinary decision by the Melbourne Racing Club, patrons will be admitted free on a day viewed as one of the club's prime opportunities to achieve significant turnover. The club's move has been hailed as a commendable response from the sport to last Friday night's debacle at Moonee Valley.
In a public relations disaster for racing, the Moonee Valley Racing Club catered for an attendance of just 8000 to see Black Caviar, who contested the group 2 Australia Stakes over 1200 metres under lights last Friday.
But such is the popularity of the unbeaten five-year-old mare that double the estimated crowd turned up and long queues and frustrated patrons forced the MVRC to open the gates for free.
It is believed the blunder, in which a crowd of more than 15,000 streamed into Moonee Valley, cost the struggling club more than $250,000 in revenue, with a lot of damage to goodwill after many patrons claimed they would never return to a meeting at the Valley.
With an hour's wait for food and drink, and racebooks sold out before the first race, punters vented their frustration on radio talkback stations.
The move by the Melbourne Racing Club is seen by industry insiders as an attempt to apologise to and compensate those fans disenfranchised last Friday.
Racing Minister Denis Napthine said he applauded the move by the club to make Black Caviar's appearance at Caulfield free of charge to the public.
''I hope all of Victoria turn out to see this wonderful mare,'' Napthine said.
''I hope they come from everywhere in the state and so they can say to their grandchildren 'I saw the great Black Caviar'. It's going to be racing history and you will see it for nothing.''
MRC chief executive Alasdair Robertson confirmed yesterday that the club would grant free admission to encourage the public to come and see the world's best sprinter try for her 18th successive win in the Orr Stakes, which will be her first attempt at 1400 metres.
'The Melbourne Racing Club doesn't underestimate the greatness of this very special horse and we'd love as many people as possible to come to Caulfield and celebrate her,'' Robertson said.
''Allowing the public to attend free of charge sets the foundation for a memorable occasion.
''We can't predict how many more times we'll see her race again so we'd like to make the most of this wonderful opportunity, which will be made extra special if Black Caviar can win her first group 1 on her home track.
''We're expecting a bumper crowd and one of the great aspects of our club and Caulfield as a venue is the ability to accommodate large numbers of people on the spur of the moment.''
A definitive program for Black Caviar after the Orr Stakes will be mapped out by her trainer, Peter Moody, and the mare's owners late this week.
Possible races are in Sydney, Adelaide, Dubai and Royal Ascot.
A start in next month's $1 million Newmarket Handicap at Flemington could also be an option.