To borrow a favourite phase from an
old bush race caller John F. “Cutter” Gorman – Makybe Diva has now well
and truly left “her hoof prints in the sands of time.” While no one
argues the right to her greatness among the immortals of the turf after
her mighty achievement yesterday, that hasn’t stopped a jarring note of
gathering discord being struck within the racing industry.
the loudest squeals emanate from the bookmaking fraternity, who in
their hour of obvious financial distress at their nightmare payout for
daring to take on the Diva yesterday now believe the VRC went to water
over the threats from the Diva camp of the scratching the mare if the
track was anything other than soft underfoot to provide “give.”
was the extent of the watering the track started the day as dead and by
the scheduled 3pm start – the track was still dead. This was not how
the Flemington watering manual was supposed to read, as the track
failed to dry out sufficiently for it to be rated ideally as “good” and
fair to all. It clearly provided bias in favour of the soft trackers
such as Makybe Diva, and penalised the likes of New Zealand’s Xcellent
(third) and Lachlan River (fifth); so it’s no wonder their respective
trainers – along with the likes of Gai Waterhouse and David Hayes –
question the integrity of the track surface.
As I wrote on
Monday, since when is watering a track to be dead seen as providing a
surface fair to all; or as David Hayes queries, why is a year round
policy as regards watering and the state of the track changed just for
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Also while I have sympathy for the politically
correct line that you cannot practically compare champions of different
eras, particularly after a gap of 75 years to Phar Lap’s only Melbourne
Cup win, Lee Freedman gave the question his own spin immediately after
the race: “I don’t want to run Phar Lap down, but did Phar Lap wins
Well Scobie Breasley who is qualified to judge,
figures he should have, and far from having Flemington custom made for
him like the Diva yesterday, racing officials went out of their way to
try and knobble his greatness. And a handicap is hardly the true
measure by which the racing industry judges our very best horseflesh
based on international ratings. Weight for age provides the accepted
global measurement of a thoroughbred’s greatness over time and on that
score alone it’s Phar Lap first and Daylight second before the Diva
even gets a look in.
Tragic hoof note: Lee Freedman hardly needs
reminding how quickly fortunes turn in racing and will surely be
feeling even better about the Diva’s well-deserved retirement, when he
hears the shocking news overnight from the UK. Triple Cheltenham Gold
Cup winner Best Mate, collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack
after being pulled up in distress during the running of her comeback
race in the William Hill Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.
read of this great champion’s sad end, which is certain to spark a
fresh debate in the UK about animal welfare and jumps racing, at BBC Sport.