So will she, or won’t she? Will
our greatest thoroughbred since Tulloch face the starter at Flemington next
Tuesday to chase a record third consecutive Melbourne Cup? Or will Makybe Diva stay down at trainer Lee
Freedman’s barn chewing the green, green grass of Rye, while someone else’s
horse takes home the $3 million?

Will she, what! There are no
certainties in racing – but this is as close as they get. Freedman will today pay the Victoria Racing
Club’s required third acceptance for the race; and she will run on Tuesday.

The canny trainer, meanwhile,
will continue to toy with the public and the media, as he muses aloud whether to
run her or not. There
is no downside to running her. She is a
racehorse; the best two miler we’ve ever seen, and even at 58kg – giving up
to 8kg to her toughest rivals – she’s weighted to win.

Picture the scene: The Diva thunders to victory next Tuesday to
the raptures of a record 140,000 crowd, to be crowned the nation’s best horse
ever. Greater than Big Red himself, Phar
Lap, stuffed and mounted a few kilometres away in the Melbourne Museum.

So why the
charade? Freedman wants to ensure his mare gets the best possible
racing conditions on the day. For her, that means a track with some
“give” in it. A hard track is not her favoured
surface. And if the track comes up firm after Saturday’s Derby
meeting – and no rainclouds appear – Freedman wants to put
pressure on the VRC to water the track.

And faced with the prospect of
losing their greatest drawcard, that is what the VRC will do. It’s simple but
effective psychology.

Freedman will seek advice from
three camps before making his final decision:
Team Freedman, including his own personal ratings expert, and two outside
ratings pros, Mark Read and Dominic Beirne.
Read has already had a massive wager on the mare to win the Cup at
5-1. Beirne’s view will be interesting.
He rated her a “good thing” in Saturday’s Cox Plate.

Ultimately, the Cup is racing’s
biggest stage, the Freedmans are big players with big pretentions; they will not
let the punters down.

And while the meeja wastes
thousands of column minutes and scores of breathless bulletins on the Big
Question, the smart punters are getting set. The mare is currently $3.50 with most bookies to win. Come Tuesday, the
massive weight of public money will ensure she starts at $2.50 – maybe even
close to even money.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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