Elvstroem, Makybe Diva In a Thriller

Australian horses being primed for raids in Asia and Europe had a day out at Melbourne's Caulfield oval Feb 26. Elvstroem and Makybe Diva staged a thrilling St. George (Aust-II) renewal, and Fastnet Rock broke a 120 year-old weight record to land the Oakleigh Plate (Aust-I).

Elvstroem, the 2-5 favorite, rallied superbly for Damien Oliver to just hold out a late surge by Makybe Diva. The dual Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) heroine fell short by a short head.

Post-race good news was that hostilities between the champion pair are to continue in the $1.25 million (Aust. funds) Australian Cup (Aust-I). The March 12 event is run over 2,000 meters of Flemington, scene of the greatest triumphs by the Irish-conceived and English-foaled Diva.

Elvstroem, a Victoria Derby winner at the track, was a conspicuously brave fourth on the latter occasion at his only 3,200 meters attempt. He ran third in the Australian Cup last year behind Lonhro.

Makybe Diva's owner/breeder Tony Santic and handler Lee Freedman changed the distaffer's plans to set-up the rematch between the winners of $7.2 million and $3.8 million.

Elvstroem will campaign in Europe after contesting the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) at Nad Al Sheba March 26. The Diva is aimed at the Tenno Sho (Jpn-I) at Tokyo's Fuchu oval on May 1.

While Elvis is Danehill's banner horse at middle distances, Fastnet Rock is the headliner of the deceased Dane's southern sprinters.

Off a solid win over Alinghi in the group I Lightning down the straight Flemington 1,000 meters, this Rock was asked to carry 57kg (126 pounds) in the $350,000 Oakleigh Plate (Aust-I). No 3-year-old had successfully carried that much since the handicap's inception in 1884.

Most in the past 60 years had been 55kg (121) and just once, in 1962. With a sweeping late run, Fastnet Rock raised the bar in arriving a long neck ahead of 150-1 shot Segments, Legally Bay and Lilando also close up. The 1:02.58 for the 1,100 meters was within a second of the track mark, 1:011.86.

Fastnet Rock is raced by a group of Coolmore luminaries headed by Sue Magnier. The colt they bred from a talented daughter of Royal Academy has won six from 17 starts. earning almost $1.4 million. He is trained by Paul Perry. He successfully campaigned Choisir in England two years after the then 3-year-old ran third in the Oakleigh with 55.5kg. Perry considers Fastnet Rock superior and hopes to prove the point be taking him along a similar path to the July Cup (Eng-I), in which Choisir was second.