The Diva Poised to Win Cox Plate

Makybe Diva is a heavy 6-4 pre-post favorite to add the $3-million (Australian funds) W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) on Oct. 22

The $9.6 million-earner dominates betting on Australia's weight-for-age championship, to be contested over 2,040 meters of Melbourne's Moonee Valley at 3.30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).

Bookmaking firms nationally reported an avalanche of money for the Diva on the eve of the race.

With the oval certain to be rain-affected--a surface which suits the reigning Australian Horse of the Year--she could be the shortest Cox favorite in seven years.

The Irish-conceived and English-born distaffer has won the past two Melbourne Cups (Aust-I) and is set for an historic three-peat attempt at Flemington Nov. 1, should she come through the Plate unscathed.

The Diva underscored her greatness in winning two key fall set weight-for-age races, the Australian Cup and Tancred Stakes (both Aust-I) at 2,000 (1 1/4 miles) and 2400 meters (1 1/2 miles).

Should she add the Cox, the $1.8 million purse will take her earnings past $11.4 million and within $237,000 of the world's leading female earner, Sunline.

The great Sunline won a pair of Cox Plates among her 13 grade I victories. She earned $11,664,312.

Makybe Diva is a 7-year-old to southern time although still actually six. She was bred by her owner, multi-millionare tuna fishing operator Tony Santic. She is by Desert King--Tugela, by Riverman.

Desert King, a son of Danehill, has another in the race, Desert War, winner of the past two runnings of the Epsom Handicap (Aust-I).

Distaffers have won just eight of the 84 Cox Plates to date, but trainer Lee Freedman is confident Makybe Diva can give him a second Cox. Freedman trained Mummify, who lost his life the morning after his courageous third in the 2-mile Caulfield Cup (Aust-I) Oct 15.

New Zealand challenger Xcellent has been beaten just once in seven starts. But the Pentire Celebre 4-year-old could strike a similarly wet track that caused his downfall in the Australian Derby in the fall. If the track stays reasonably firm, his finish could match that of the Diva. But the rain have his crew worried.

The international challenge is carried by Japan entry Tosen Dandy and the South African owned, but New Zealand-bred Grey's Inn.

Tosen Dandy is trained Takaya Shimakawa by Hideyuki Mori. Minoru Yoshida is expected to lead after breaking from post 9.

Grey's Inn, one of two runners by New Zealand stalwart Zabeel, is trained for Bridget Oppenheimer by Mike de Kock, and will be ridden by the Hong Kong-based rider Weichong Marwing.

The other Zabeel is Moonee Valley specialist Lad of the Manor, third to Makybe Diva in the Australian Cup. He is unbeaten in four local starts and should camp right on the pace.

Other main chances appear to be Caulfield Guineas (Aust-I) winner God's Own and Sunday Silence grandson Confectioner (by Bubble Gum Fellow).

Makybe Diva towers over them on form and it would take a 128 pounds rating from her male rivals as she is capable of 125-plus and receives 2.5kg under the weight-for-age scale as a female.

But the flaw for the Diva is the speed or lack of it. If the leaders refuse to set the race up for her and the other back runners such as Xcellent, the favorite's market price could be way too costly.

But race fans are ready to cheer for the red, white, and blue silks worn by the Diva's rider Glen Boss. If she wins there will be pandemonium at the Valley.