Japan trip almost cost Diva shot at history
A NEW book has revealed how a decision to send champion mare Makybe Diva to Japan to promote a fishing business almost cost her a third Melbourne Cup.
Makybe Diva is enshrined in racing history as the only horse to win three successive Melbourne Cups (2003-04-05).
But in Makybe Diva author Trevor Marshallsea reveals a Japanese campaign before her final Cup run left her on the brink of premature retirement.
Owner Tony Santic, who operated a tuna fishing business in South Australia, overruled trainer Lee Freedman who wanted to send the horse to France to run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe after she had won her first two Cups.
'Lee was talking about the Arc," Santic says. "I said, 'No, we've got to go to Japan. If she wins there, it's promoting my tuna, and it's worth a lot more to me than winning the Arc'.
"I was thinking with my business brain, instead of leaving it to the trainer."
But Makybe Diva was never at home in Japan where strict racing rules meant she was unable to travel with a companion she needed to fully relax.
"She always loved being around other horses," Santic says. "If ever she didn't have some sort of partner, she'd fret.''
Though she found a companion after landing she then had another more serious problem - hard tracks.
She finished seventh of 12 starters in her first start in Japan and, when her legs jarred, there were more problems with tight local rules meaning she couldn't be given anti-inflammatory drugs.
The same problems haunted her after another start in Japan with concerned jockey Glenn Boss saying he could feel a rumble through her shoulder as she galloped.
An early morning inspection found her to be severely sore in all four legs after her two-mile test, again with no anti-inflammatory medications able to be given to aid her recovery.
"I went to see her and there she was, standing in ice buckets, for all four legs," Santic says.
"I'd never seen her like that before. And she was stressed. You just hate to see that.
'She just looked absolutely nutted. And that's when we thought seriously that that might be it. We thought about retiring her.
"It would've been early to retire a horse. She was still only six by Australian time. But you just hate to see animals in pain. And she was in pain.''
The mare recovered to win a third Melbourne Cup and Boss rated the reception from Flemington fans as the highlight of his career.