At the risk of turning
Crikey into a racing rag, we must respond to Michael ‘Gadfly’ Hutak’s character
assassination of Makybe Diva in yesterday’s Crikey. First, comparing horses is invidious; that’s why we
have bookies who drive expensive European cars.

Second, I don’t arrogantly claim to know if Sunline is
superior to The Diva, as does our Gadfly. But I know someone who does: Sunline’s
trainer, Steve McKee, who told Melbourne’s radio SEN on Wednesday The Diva’s
was “an extraordinary performance, she’s the best mare I’ve ever
seen.”

As we patiently explained before the Cup,
racing “experts” have consistently underestimated the greatness of this mare,
mainly because her first trainer, David Hall, took a conservative approach in
her early preparations. It took the skill of Lee Freedman to unlock her
potential as our greatest modern day thoroughbred.

Gadfly puts her Cup success down to “luck”; a good
barrier, a good ride. He derides the second placegetter ‘On a Jeune’. It may be
the case that the improving ‘On a Jeune’ is a rising staying star in his own
right, and in any case, trying to assess a horse on just one run is fallacy.
It’s the career that counts, and Makybe Diva’s is extraordinary:
she won every race she was set for – every one of
them, something Phar Lap never achieved.

We’ll never know how she lines up against the
champions of yore, how far she might have beaten Kingston Town, or Saintly, or
Dulcify in the fantasy Cox Plate. That’s the glory of sport, and for punters to
argue over. But an independent assessment is handy. Jim
Bowler, who has seen 35 Melbourne Cups, and assessed 25 as the VRC’s official
handicapper, reckons Tuesday’s was the best he has watched: “Before the mare, I
felt Saintly took the prize and he, too, came through the Cox Plate,” Bowler
said
. “Basically she won untouched.”

And comparisons to Par Lap? Invidious. Different
era, conditions and opposition.

We wish The Diva a fruitful retirement, and offer this
scenario: she thrives so well in the paddock that Tony Santic brings her back
for one final prep (maybe while in foal to Rock of Gibraltar or Zabeel): a shot
next year at the Sheeba classic in Dubai, to decide once and for all who’s the
world’s greatest horse. That’s a fantasy to relish.