Makybe Diva turned in another bravura performance with her storming victory in the Turnbull Stakes (Aust-II) Oct. 1.
Her 13th success completely upstaged the five group I races run in Australasia the same day, despite a couple of memorable performances, particularly by Xcellent in winning the $1 million (New Zealand funds) Kelt Capital Stakes (NZ-I).
Returning to Flemington, the scene of her triumphs in the past two Melbourne Cups (Aust-I) and the Australian Cup (Aust-I) last fall, the 7-year-old mare treated her fans mightily at her first public appearance at her favored oval this spring.
Her grand finish to win the $500,000 (Australian funds) weight-for-age event from Lad of the Manor by three-quarters of a length triggered another frenzy of celebration. Confectioner arrived a half neck later and with only a neck to spare over Sir Dex. The time for the 2,000 meters was 2:01.57.
However, the winning margin could have been greater for the 2-1 favorite had stand-in rider Stephen King desired. King allowed the mare to drift back from the outside gate of the 16 runners and they only had three behind them at the top of the lane.
Her eight graded wins, including five group Is, have netted owner/breeder Tony Santic more than $9.6 million. She is the third female winner of her age in 140 years, the previous one almost a century ago.
It completed a two-state double for her sire, Desert King, and handler Lee Freedman. The now Japan-based Desert King (he is also standing in Australia at Lynden Park Stud) is also the sire of Desert War, who made it back-to-back wins in the Epsom Handicap (Aust-I). With his win in group III Randwick support, the Craven Plate, Mummify moved close to $5 million in earnings. The veteran Freedman-stable stalwart is by another English-born Melbourne Cup winner, Jeune.
The Turnbull was a dress rehearsal for her spring goals of the W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) Oct 22 and the Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) Nov 1. The grim news for her rivals as she heads towards an unprecedented three-peat attempt in the Cup, is that she is appears in better shape than at the same time in the past two years.
With regular rider Glen Boss reunited with the mare in the Cox, she will clash with Xcellent. This Pentire 4-year-old advanced his earnings past $1 million (NZ funds) with an impressive almost-last-to-first win in the $1 million Kelt Capital Stakes as a heavy 4-5 favorite at Hastings.
Xcellent is unbeaten in six starts in his homeland and demonstrated that he is right on target to oppose Makybe Diva in the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup. His only defeat was in Sydney in March, when a heavy track saw the New Zealand Derby (NZ-I) winner only eighth of 12 in the Australian Derby (Aust-I) won by Eremein.
Partnered again by Michael Coleman in the 2,040 meters weight-for-age contest, Xcellent roared home to defeat tenacious veteran Distinctly Secret by 1 1/4 lengths, the remaining 14 headed by Waitoki Dream another four lengths back.