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Magnificent mare

  • 21 April 2006

As the Sydney Spring Carnival came to an end, with Desert War winning its second Epsom in a row and Railings taking the Metropolitan (races that date back to the 1860s), the Melbourne Carnival began. Back from Hong Kong, David Hayes led in the two-year-old I Got Chills which landed a huge plunge and won by six lengths. It would win again three weeks later, and then go amiss, perhaps never to start again. The Turnbull Stakes went to the champion mare Makybe Diva, warming up for the Cox Plate to come at Moonee Valley.

But first the action swung to Caulfield for the Guineas. It has been a vexed race, won by ordinary horses—Procul Harum at 250/1, last year Econsul at 40/1—but by outstanding ones as well: Vain, Redoubte’s Choice, Lonrho. As rain began to fall heavily, the Bart Cummings-trained God’s Own was knocked sideways twice, but came on to win decisively from Paratroopers. Amazed he should have been, but Cummings only ventured ‘very good’. That laconicism did not reprove the gibbering spokesman for Carlton at the presentation who extolled its ‘big beer’ ad.

Earlier on in the program some of the international horses were out in the 120th running of the Caulfield Stakes, but it was done brilliantly by a relative newcomer, El Segundo, with Darren Gauci up. It could only manage sixth in the next week’s Caulfield Cup, but watch for this horse in the autumn. The Cup went to Railings from the unlucky Japanese runner Eye Popper whose jockey covered an extra furlong. Traditionally the best pointer to the Melbourne Cup, this race sent those two to near the top of the market. A gallant third-place getter, the Lee Freedman-trained Mummify, which won the Caulfield Cup three years ago and won a Group One at Dubai last year, broke down and had to be destroyed.

The Cox Plate was a showdown for Freedman’s mare Makybe Diva, which had never won at Moonee Valley and faced a field of imponderables. How good were the three-year-olds? The foreign horses? In the end, not good enough. Glen Boss sent the mare home for a bold win after the field had fanned eight wide on the turn. But would she run in the Melbourne Cup? She had appeared spent at the end of the Cox Plate. Ten days later she would have to carry a record weight for a mare