On 1 November, 2005, Makybe Diva won the hearts of a nation. She smashed all previous records and will forever be known as an Australian sporting legend, along with Ian Thorpe, Cathy Freeman and Phar Lap. Makybe Diva's big win was at the Melbourne Cup, Australia's annual horseracing event. She beat her competitors by a body length and entered the history books as the first horse to ever win three Melbourne Cup events.
The Melbourne Cup
On the first Tuesday of November at around 3pm local time, all of Australia pauses to watch one of the country's greatest sporting events, the Melbourne Cup race - 'the race that stops a nation'. The Melbourne Cup race is the peak of the four-day Spring Racing Carnival, which is held at Flemington Raceway in Melbourne, and has been every year since 1861.
In 2005, the total prize money offered at the Carnival was 5.1 million Australian dollars (approximately £2 million). Over 200 million Australian dollars (approximately £79 million) worth of worldwide bets were placed on the races over the four-day event - including a million-dollar bet on Makybe Diva herself.
The climax of the festival is the aptly named Melbourne Cup Day1, when the 3,200m Emirates Melbourne Cup race is run. The race attracts 130,000 spectators, and entire schools and workplaces have been known to stop and wait for the result of the race.
In 1895 American author Mark Twain said
Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.
In 2005, Australia watched as the seven-year-old mare Makybe Diva won the Melbourne Cup for the third time in a row, an achievement that has never before occurred in the history of the race. Makybe Diva was also one of the oldest horses to win the Cup. Only two other seven-year-old mares have won the race in its entire history - Archer in 1861 and Acrasia in 1904. Makybe Diva is also the first horse since Carbine in 1890 to win both the Sydney Cup and Melbourne Cup in the same year.
Makybe Diva was conceived in Ireland and born in Britain, and brought back to Australia after failing to attract any bids in England. Her new owner, Tony Santic, a South Australian tuna fisherman, asked five of his employees to help name her. They came up with her name by combining the first two letters of each of their first names - Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Dianne and Vanessa.
Makybe Diva won her first Melbourne Cup in 2003, beating She's Archie (second) and Jardine's Lookout (third), and won national acclaim in the 2004 Melbourne Cup by beating Irish horse Vinnie Roe (second) and the long-shot Zazzman (third). Despite being the punters' favourite for the 2005 Melbourne Cup, many Australians doubted that she would win again. Flemington Racecourse was wet in 2003 and 2004, and the horse performed better on softer racecourses. The course would have been dry in 2005 if the organisers hadn't made a controversial decision to water the course at the last minute. Despite the nation's doubt, Makybe Diva performed a great race, beating the Australian horse On a Jeune and the New Zealand horse Xcellent.
Also in 2005, Makybe Diva won the Australian Cup at the Flemington racecourse and the BMW at the Rosehill racecourse in Sydney, and the Cox Plate at the Moonee Valley racecourse in Melbourne just ten days before the Melbourne Cup.
Makybe Diva and her jockey Glen Boss first entered the public eye in 2003, after winning their first Melbourne Cup. Boss was seen as the iconic Aussie battler; one of six children who grew up in a farm near the small Queensland town of Caboolture. He left school at the age of 15, two days after seeing his first race with his grandfather. He had largely taught himself to ride at his family's farm, and he perfected his skill under the tutelage of Gympie trainer Terry Chinner. When Boss competed in the Melbourne Cup in 2003, he had recently recovered from a racing fall, which could have left him permanently paralysed. He had spent three months in rehabilitation before winning the Cup and becoming Australia's most well-known jockey.
Makybe Diva's owner announced her retirement after her Cup win on 1 November, 20052. She will forever be remembered in the Australian consciousness as the greatest racehorse since Phar Lap, and many Australians will remember the 2005 Melbourne Cup day as the day Makybe Diva made history with her record-breaking run3.