Few horses gain great fame. Bucephalus may be the most famous simply due to the great length of time stories of him and Alexander the Great have lasted. There is, of course, the horse named Incitatus who was treated with the care and kindness of a royal, and was at one point considered by the current Roman Emperor, Caligula, to be made a consul.
As time moves on, we have Black Beauty, who, though fictional, is very well known. During the 30s there were such horses as Seabiscuit and War Admiral in North America, and Phar Lap for Australia during the 20s. All these horses have one thing in common: they’re all male. Though that isn’t the main difference between Makybe Diva and these others I’ve named. None of these horses won the same prestigious “Race that Stops a Nation” three times in a row.
Only five horses have ever won the Melbourne Cup more than once, and only fourteen mares have ever claimed the title.
As happens with many of Australia’s famous, she’s not really Australian. Her dam, Tugela, was English, and though purchased by an Australian she remained in Somerset to give birth to Makybe Diva on March 21, 1999. (The sire being a stallion named Desert King.) The filly was then offered for sale, but did not make the reserve and so she and her mother remained in Somerset until August 2000, when they were both shipped to Australia. This English birth caused some issues in the Southern Hemisphere. To make things easy for racing, thoroughbreds in the Northern Hemisphere are given the generic date of birth of January 1. In the Southern Hemisphere, this date is August 1. This meant that she was put into an age bracket consisting of horses six months older.
She competed in her first race at age three in July at the racetrack in Benalla, Victoria, in which she finished fourth. Two weeks later she was classed as a four year old. From there, she continued racing, eventually qualifying herself for the 2003 Melbourne Cup by winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a race of 2,500 meters. After a spring of training, she entered the Melbourne Cup as a $8 second favorite. She remained at the back of the field until the last straight, from which she charged up to win by one and a half lengths. She then proceeded to win the Sydney Cup, becoming the first mare to win both in one season, and the fourth horse to ever do so.
After this first win, David Hall, her original trainer, left for Hong Kong, and she was transferred to Lee Freedman, one of Australia’s greatest racehorse trainers. Her jockey for all but the early races of her career was Glen Boss. Her second season racing was aimed at winning the Melbourne Cup again. Bad weather gave the 2004 Cup rain and mud, but despite this Makybe Diva beat names such as Mummify, Media Puzzle and Elvstroem. She was then named the Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year for 2004.
The third season, in 2005, gave rise to the typical media-created concerns and the worries of making a horse run against the best of the best for the third time. Talk arose that the track was too hard for the mare, and so the VRC watered it to soften the ground. This resulted in even more talk that the Makybe Diva was being given special treatment.
For this last Melbourne Cup, Makybe Diva carried 58 kg, 2 kg more than the weight for age average, and also a personal record for the mare, who had previous also carried 55.5 kg, which had been the record weight carried by a mare until the 2005 Melbourne Cup. Despite the weight, she won the race, and was immediately put into retirement.
She was once again declared the Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year, which only three horses (Makybe Diva included) have ever won. For the third time in a row she was also named the Australian Champion Stayer. On July 4, 2006 she was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, and in August the same year a bronze statue of the mare was made and placed in Port Lincoln, South Australia. A year later in 2007 she gave birth to her first foal, a colt, at 3.16 am August 17, 2007. A great media-fuss was made over this colt’s birth.
She is owned by Tony Šantić, a South Australian Fisherman who named the filly by taking two letters from each of the names of five of his employees: Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane, and Vanessa - by taking the first two letters from each of their names. Over her racing career she won 14,526,685 AUD. As of today, she resides happily in Coolmore Stud in the Hunter Valley, NSW.
Sources used for information:
Various newspaper articles I have lying around from her racing days
Stored up knowledge