An incredible closing run by Makybe Diva might be the last Australian race fans see of the champion mare.
A consequence of the "Diva" roaring home in the BMW-sponsored Tancred Stakes (Aust-I) was perhaps to race herself out of her adopted homeland. If that proves to be the case, she could not have had a more drama charged sign-off.
Her grand weight-for-age victories in the $1 million (Australian funds) Australian Cup (Aust-I) and $2 million Tancred March 12 and 19 have surely ruled out an attempt to win her third successive Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) in November.
She carried 55.5kg over the Flemington 3,200 meters in the repeat and would have to be handicapped at around 60kg (132 pounds). A champion named Wakeful -- Australasia's best staying mare until now -- lumped 140 pounds to a narrow defeat by a lightweight in the Melbourne Cup 102 years ago.
Owner Tony Santic and handler Lee Freedman are likely to widen their vision to Europe, or North America, after Makybe Diva contests the Tenno Sho (Jpn-I) at Kyoto May 1. Her only realistic Australian spring target would be the other top weight-for-age race, the W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I). Freedman would love Santic to sanction a shot at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) in October.
The third female winner in 29 Tancred editions at weight-for-age certainly settled any lingering doubts voters might have harbored regarding the 2005 Horse of the Year. Dissenters preventing a unanimous ballot would need to explain themselves.
After she vanquished Elvstroem in Melbourne, the only other 'live' chance had been Hennessy's wonderful advertisement Grand Armee. Attempting an end-to-end win in chasing his fifth group I win of the season, he boldly strode into uncharted territory at his first run beyond 2,000 meters.
Makybe Diva's closing speed to swamp him and win by two lengths astonished her regular partner Glen Boss. At the wire, it appeared to be in disbelief that Boss shook his head when glancing back to see where her main rival was.
She stopped the clock at 2:26.99 for the 2,400 meters on a Rosehill track dampened by rain. Vouvray, one of four by Zabeel in the 11-strong field was third, a similar margin away. The track mark had been 2:26.81 until Grand Zulu lowered it to 2:25.28 in last year's Tancred, on a far faster surface. Makybe Diva wasn't suited by its hardness and ran third.
Desert King's 6-year-old daughter was 15 lengths from Grand Armee and seventh into the final 800 meters. The final 600 meters was run in :35.39, and Makybe Diva was timed to cover it in :33.93. Punters who hammered her price into 11-10, as the brave runner-up eased to 23-10, were emphatically rewarded.
The Irish-conceived filly nobody wanted to buy as a foal in England, and with a name derived from several office workers at her owner's fishing business in South Australia, has won more than $9 million. The $1.2 million Rosehill purse took her earnings to $9,124,110 (Australian funds) with 11 wins from 29 career starts.
There cannot be a higher rating mare in the world right now.
Only retirees Sunline and Northerly are ahead on the Australasian list of money winners. Sunline is Thoroughbred racing's highest ever female earner with $11,690,679. She retired in 2002 after winning 32 of 48 races.
For the 30,000 at the track and a television audience of several million, the Tancred 'match race' between Makybe Diva and Grand Armee easily upstaged the supposed main race on Golden Slipper day. Even though the 2-year-old race carries a purse of $3 million it was relegated to the undercard after the Diva's star turn.