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Breeders Corner \ Makybe Diva

11 September

With the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes being the premier event around Australia this weekend, we thought it was an opportune time to recall the wonderful mare's feats on the racetrack and examine her pedigree in further depth.

Bred and raced by Tony Santic, Makybe Diva was yet another astute purchase by leading Queensland agent John Foote on behalf of her breeder and owner.

One of the first of the southern hemisphere agents to begin regular forays to the northern hemisphere to source superior bloodlines and invest in quality families for his clients, John Foote purchased Makybe Diva's dam Tugela in foal to Desert King for 60,000 guineas at the December 1998 Tattersall's Sale.

Tugela foaled a bay filly (later to be named Makybe Diva) in the UK who was sent for sale as a yearling but failed to make her reserve and was later exported to Australia to embark on her racing career.

Originally trained by David Joseph Hall, Makybe Diva made her racetrack debut in late July of 2002 as a three-year-old in a maiden at Benalla, and finished a good fourth. At her next start, two weeks later - and now classed as a four-year-old, Makybe Diva began a six-race winning sequence in a maiden at Wangaratta, which culminated in two stakes victories in the Werribee Cup (2000m) and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2500m) at Flemington.

The last win was significant in that it qualified the mare for the following year's Melbourne Cup, and allowed her trainer to give her a light autumn campaign, which consisted of just two starts in relatively short races.

In the spring of 2003 Hall gave Makybe Diva a steady build-up to her target race, the coveted Melbourne Cup, kicking off in the Stock Stakes for the fillies and mares over 1400m where she finished off strongly for fourth.

She then headed to Flemington where she started equal favourite for the Turnbull Stakes Gr.2, again finished strongly for fourth, beaten just a length. Her third run into the preparation saw Makybe Diva start her long association with jockey Glen Boss as she headed to the Caulfield Cup Gr.1 over 2400m.

Starting at 14/1, Makybe Diva impressed a number of observers coming from last at the 800m to finish fourth to the high class Freedman galloper Mummify and alerted many to her chances in the upcoming Melbourne Cup.

After her eye-catching effort in the Caulfield Cup, Makybe Diva gained plenty of supporters as she headed to Flemington on the first Tuesday in November for the Melbourne Cup Gr.1. Starting second favourite at 8/1, Makybe Diva settled in her customary position in the back half of the field and Boss picked his way through the field as she finished powerfully to land her first Melbourne Cup victory.

After the 2003–2004 season, trainer David Hall was given the opportunity to train in Hong Kong and duly left Australia to take up a position with the HKJC, with Makybe Diva then transferred to leading trainer Lee Freedman.

Much could be written about the remainder of Makybe Diva's career, but in summary she is the only horse to have won three Melbourne Cups and overall she raced on 36 occasions for 15 wins, 4 seconds and 3 thirds while upon her retirement from racing in November 2005, Makybe Diva was the highest stakes-earner in Australian horse racing history, finishing with winnings of more than A$14 million.

Aside from her Melbourne Cup victories Makybe Diva won a Sydney Cup, WS Cox Plate, Australian Cup, BMW Stakes, Memsie Stakes, and Turnbull Stakes and finished second (to Elvstroem) in a Caulfield Cup.

On the score of pedigree Makybe Diva is by Danehill's Derby winning son Desert King and is out of the Riverman mare Tugela, while the next three broodmare sires are Roberto, Northern Dancer, and Vaguely Noble.

On her female side, Makybe Diva is a direct descendant of the American Group 1 winner Amerigos Fancy.

Tugela was unplaced in her two career starts, but at stud she has been an outstanding broodmare for Tony Santic, producing 11 foals of which 8 have raced and 6 are winners. Four of the six winners are stakes winners (in order of foaling) Makybe Diva, Valkyrie Diva, Musket, & La Amistad.

To date Makybe Diva has produced six minor winners, but is fair to say she has not brought her racetrack dominance to the fore as a broodmare. The wonderful mare still has a two-year-old filly by Written Tycoon and a yearling filly by More Than Ready to race, while as has often been the case with these high class mares, it may be left to one of her daughters to rejuvenate the family in the seasons ahead.

While it is difficult to compare horses from different eras, there is no doubt that Makybe Diva will always be ranked among the very best staying mares of all time, and the likelihood of another horse (let alone mare) repeating her efforts is highly unlikely indeed.

Makybe Diva became one of Australia's leading sports icons during her time which was recognised when she was awarded the inaugural Spirit of Sport Award (for 2005) along with her connections (Lee Freedman, Tony Santic, and Glen Boss) by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame for her three successive Melbourne Cups.

Makybe Diva was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in July 2006, and Makybe Diva has been honoured at Flemington Racecourse and Victoria Racing Club with a life-sized bronze statue, in recognition of her historic three Melbourne Cup wins.

A life-sized bronze statue was also erected on the foreshore in Santic's home town of Port Lincoln, South Australia.

Makybe Diva headed the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities ratings for the 2005-06 official end-of-season assessment with a rating of 124, ahead of Electrocutionist, David Junior and Heart's Cry.

Tomorrow's field for the Makybe Diva Stakes has attracted a number of Group 1 performers including last year's Melbourne Cup winner Vow and Declare while his stablemates Russian Camelot and the 2019 VRC Oaks winner Miami Bound give trainer Danny O'Brien Racing a strong hand in the race.