In a nation that stops for a horse race, the 7-year-old mare achieved the dream third straight success under Glen Boss.
Soon after the wire, as the record crowd started to celebrate--scenes repeated across the land--caller Greg Miles called it "the greatest Melbourne Cup win ever."
As the legendary Phar Lap's win in depression-ridden 1930, that statement would have been considered sacrilege. Until today, that is.
Santic's announcement of Makybe Diva retirement, as he stepped up to accept the Cup trophy for the third year running, stunned the media and an audience of many millions. It seemed to find widespread favor from the fans as she has little left to prove.
It will take some time before we see a mare capable of bettering her world-record career total of $14,526,685. The $3.1 milion winner's purse for the 145th Cup enabled her to roar past the New Zealand-bred Sunline's $11.664 million.
Makybe Diva carried topweight of 58kg, beating by 2.5kg the female weight-carrying record she set in the 2004 Cup. The No. 1 saddlecloth had not appeared in the winner's circle since 1954.
It could not prevent small punters around the nation sticking with the champion distaffer, sending her out a 7-2 favorite. She returned a much skinnier dividend at off-course betting outlets, but sent punters into celebration-mode from coast-to-coast, and beyond. In New South Wales alone, punters splurged 60 million, the Diva a firm choice. Many punters had a dollar or two on her, so as to souvenir the winning ticket
Coming off a triumph in the $2 million W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) Oct 22, the English-foaled mare bred by her owner from a Juddmonte cast-off, won by 1 1/4 lengths from 70-1 chance On a Jeune, near last into the stretch. The runner-up is a son of the 1994 Melbourne Cup winner, Jeune.
High class New Zealand 4-year-old Xcellent (20-1) held on for third a half-length away, and ahead of the 9-2 second choice Leica Falcon. The 3:19.17 for the 3,200 meters was just under the three seconds outside the record, set on a far harder surface in 1990.
Boss had ridden the Desert King daughter flawlessly in winning the previous two years and produced another gem. He and the favorite were 17th of the 24 on settling from gate No. 14, racing two from the rail, the pace genuine.
They still had only seven behind them into the final 800 meters and improved just four places in heavy traffic as the field wheeled for home.
Makybe Diva had the required acceleration as Boss hunted for openings and they swept into the lead just inside the 300-meter pole, past Portland Singa and Lachlan River.
Also making his final start, Vinnie Roe did best of the international entries in eighth. Rider Pat Smullen reported the 4-time Irish St Leger (Ire-I) winner was distressed pulling up from his exertions in the 31C (88f) heat. The Weld barn later reported that the war-horse had recovered.
Japanese stayer Eye Popper was heavy supported to run a 5-1 third choice. However, the Northern Farm entry faded to 11th under Shinji Fujita after vying for the lead early on in the home stretch. Railings, the Zabeel horse to swallow up Eye Popper in the Caulfield Cup (Aust-), finished two places farther back at 6-1.
Grey's Inn, the U.S. foaled Zabeel son to win on two continents for his South African owner Bridget Oppenheimer, failed to stay. He was placed 17th, two slots ahead of English entry Distinction. The Michael Stoute-trained Danehill son was trapped wide throughout.
Frankins Gardens failed to complete the course. The British entry had to be cleared by veterinary surgeons on the morning of the race after a track mishap the previous week.
"None of us will ever live long enough to see anything like this again," said trainer Lee Freedman.
His charge, Mummify, lost his life through injury incurred after the wire, when third in the Caulfield Cup. Since then Freedman has won the Cox Plate with the Diva and last Saturday, landed the Victoria Derby (Aust-I) with More Than Ready son Benicio.
Freedman, 48, has now trained five Melbourne Cup winners, the same as 1900s legend Etienne de Mestre. Only 78-year-old living-legend Bart Cummings is ahead, with 11.
"The Diva means the world to me," said a jubilant Tony Santic.
"People try to put her with Phar Lap. Phar Lap's the legend and he'll always be a legend--she is the new day legend."
Four others have won the Cup twice; Archer, Peter Pan, Rain Lover and Think Big.
Winning three in a row was considered an impossibility...until today.
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