Makybe Diva failed by a nose in her second race as reigning Australian Horse of the Year, finishing second in the John F. Feehan Stakes (Aust-II) at Moonee Valley Sept. 10.
Her narrow defeat as a 2-1 favorite failed to stop the champion distaffer's apparent surge towards the W.S. Cox (Aust-I) at the same oval Oct. 23 and the Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) Nov 1.
Assisted by the soft track and fast pace set by Japanese entrant Tosen Dandy, she and Glen Boss were overwhelming Lad of the Manor (11-4) and Greg Childs at the wire, but the post arrived a shade too soon. Official margin for the $250,000 (Australian funds) event was a short half head, the 1,600 meters run in 1:37.64.
An extremely capable and consistent miler by Zabeel, Lad of the Manor made it 11 wins and $775,000 from 18 starts. A 4 1/2 length third behind the Diva in the Australian Cup (Aust-I) last fall, at his only attempt beyond a mile, will see the gelded 6-year-old again oppose her in the Cox.
So too, will 2003 Cox Plate winner Fields Of Omagh, a solid Feehan third, beaten a half-length.
Makybe Diva punctuated her Horse of the Year success by winning the Memsie Stakes (Aust-II) at 1,400 meters Aug. 27. She was subsequently weighted at 128 pounds for her potential three-peat attempt in the Melbourne Cup (Aust-I).
The English foaled 6-year-old -- seven to southern time -- is likely to have her final Cox prep in the Turnbull Stakes (Aust-II and 2,000 meters) at Flemington Oct. 1.
Breeder/owner Tony Santic and trainer Lee Freedman will delay a decision on the Melbourne Cup until after the Cox. But the fact she is on a three race prep before the 2,040 meters Valley major indicates the famous Flemington two-mile event remains high on her agenda.