Makybe Diva trainer Lee Freedman has been facing racing’s dilemma after
he set himself the task of winning this year’s Cox Plate, before even
considering an unprecedented third straight Melbourne Cup win. But pressure is
mounting on the stable to let history run its course and start the
2003-2004 Melbourne Cup winner at Flemington on November 1st.

Freedman and the mare’s owner have set themselves an almighty hurdle to
jump regardless of whether their champion can win the Cox Plate.
Freedman faces a tough task to retune the mare to win the 2040m Cox
Plate, and, just 10 days later, give her the endurance to run the much
longer 3200m cup journey.

However, should Makybe Diva triumph
at Moonee Valley or put in any kind of half decent run, then the public
clamour to see her attempt the historic cup treble will have Freedman’s
stable facing unbelievable pressure to perform.

Brave professional punters are already casting their vote and shovelling
on bets that she will start. Yet Freedman, having long since
signalled to the racing public that the Cox Plate is the major spring
target, has every right to hedge his bets as to any cup tilt no matter
what punters and bookies are already understandably happy to anticipate.

So until after the Cox Plate, the Melbourne Cup is something of a crap
shoot. But if the mare, for whatever reason, isn’t a starter and many
punters do their money cold, Freedman will not only cop it in the neck
in spades for her scratching, but the public will feel cheated that a
great unwritten chapter in turf history didn’t see the light of
day.

Unquestionably a third cup win would be a sensation for
racing generally and elevate the horse virtually side by side with Phar Lap –
something previously unthinkable; although I would argue the toss on
that one for another time.

In the clearest indication yet that she will be given her crack
at the kind of equine immortality even Kingston Town could only dream
about, a strong nation-wide plunge of $150,000 was being laid on the
champ yesterday. If she does start – public sentiment will surely
demand that she will be carrying most people’s money whether they think
she can win or not.

To even the most hardened punter, there’s no finer tribute to a great
champion of the turf than carrying your money, not because you’re
convinced she’ll win, but because you’re unable to stand the thought of not being on
her to say she can’t!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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