An interesting article in Monday's Australian press commented that Melbourne Cup favorite (and eventual winner) Makybe Diva was the product of a similar trend Down Under:
"If Makybe Diva, or one of the international raiders for that matter, wins Australia's greatest race tomorrow, it will continue an extraordinary training trend that is changing the very nature of the Melbourne Cup. The past three Melbourne Cup winners have had the lightest race preparations leading up to the first Tuesday in November of virtually any in the Cup's long history."
So the Aussie racing pundit is concerned that Makybe Diva is part of a trend of racing "lightly"... Let's take a closer look:
That's right, Makybe Diva's racing schedule included four races since the end of August. And the Melbourne Cup was the mare's third race in just over four weeks -- at distances of about ten, twelve, and sixteen furlongs (the Melbourne Cup is a gut-busting two-miles)! This spring campaign (don't forget the seasons are reversed on the other side of the world) is in addition to an autumn season that totaled six more races. Altogether, including the Melbourne Cup, Makybe Diva has run eleven times in 2004.
In other words, Makybe Diva has run more in the past nine weeks than Ghostzapper has run all year! And the five races that Makybe Diva has run since the end of August matches the entire 2004 total of Pleasantly Perfect. It's also worth noting, no horse that ran in the 2004 BC Classic had more than two starts showing from the last week in August until they entered the starting gate at Lone Star on 10/30.
But Down Under Diva's campaign is considered light!
Now how about a closer look at some of the other Aussie runners in the Melbourne Cup field:
Zazzman finished third Tuesday (11/2). It was his 12th start of 2004, but more remarkably it was his 7th start since the beginning of September! And in a turnaround almost unheard of here in the US, Zazzman ran in the G1 MacKinnon Stakes (10/30) three days prior to entering the starting gate for the Melbourne Cup!
Elvstroem won the Caulfield Cup (10/16) a little over two weeks prior to his fourth-place finish in the Melbourne Cup. But again, in a move that is simply unheard of here in the US Elvstroem came back one week after the Caulfield Cup, and ten days before the Melbourne Cup to run in the G1 Cox Plate (10/23).
Mummify won last year's Caulfield Cup. He's run 14 times in 2004 (including Tuesday) and had two races in September and three races in October prior to the Melbourne Cup start.
In all, seven of the twenty-four starters (yep, a field of twenty-four!) made their last start on Saturday -- just three days prior to the two-mile Melbourne Cup. And the spring campaigns for most of the Aussie runners were very similar to those above as far as number and timing of starts.
And look at the distances of the races the horses above ran. The majority are ten and twelve furlongs...
I don't know about you but this writer can only salivate when digesting all this info. A mare faces the boys and wins Australia's top race for the second year in a row. Top-notch racehorses that actually race! And classic distances are the norm! Not to mention that tote-board busting 24-horse field...
Let's all close our eyes and dream just a little before we're jolted back to reality thinking about the prospect of choosing an Eclipse winner from either one that retired at the half-way point or one that has only run four times. Ugh.
--- Seth Merrow
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