Caviar is a star of the screen as well

A CROWD of 27,000 turned up at Flemington to welcome Black Caviar back to action after a seven-month break, and she was a big hit on television, too.

Bernard Saundry, the chief executive of Racing Victoria, said on Sunday that figures from new free-to-air broadcast partner Channel Seven suggested almost 340,000 tuned into Seven's second station to watch the great mare in action - a massive increase on the 51,000 average for the first week of race broadcasts seven days earlier.

''The meeting average [for the whole of the afternoon telecast] was 158,000. At the time of her race 336,000 were watching, with the breakdown showing that in Sydney the figures was 52,000, Melbourne 130,000, Brisbane 65,000, Adelaide 43,000 and Perth 46,000,'' Saundry said.

''Add to that Sky, TVN, plus online viewing and you would say that there were easily half a million people tuning in to watch the race.''

Saundry, like all racing professionals, knows the huge marketing impact the wonder mare has had on the sport. Racing will, one day have to confront the reality that she is no longer there to be its sales promoter, and the head of Racing Victoria is determined the industry will take advantage of the opportunity she has given it.

''In my view she has proved that she's better than a champion with that run. She's the best horse I have ever seen in 35 years in the industry. Our key challenge is to make sure we get as many eyeballs as possible watching, as we have done through our new arrangement with Channel Seven and all the other platforms racing can be seen on.

''Part of that strategy is to get those people to engage with racing and come to the track. She's a platform to get old fans back and attract new ones. Whenever she's racing people talk about it with you, even if they don't know about racing.''

Racing Minister Denis Napthine agreed. ''She is absolutely fantastic for racing. She's the people's horse . . . and she's bringing people back to racing. She's probably the best we have seen in 100 years - well, her and Phar Lap, and I'll put Makybe Diva in for the trifecta.''

This story Caviar is a star of the screen as well first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.