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WORLD SPORT

Makybe Diva scores Cup treble

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Melbourne (Australia)
Australia
Horse Racing

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australian mare Makybe Diva has won an historic third straight victory in this year's rich Melbourne Cup horse race.

The champion stayer started a hot favorite in Tuesday's 3,200-meter (2 miles) race, which carried prize money of Aust. $5 million ($3.75 million).

Ridden by Glen Boss, Makybe Diva won convincingly, becoming the first horse in the history of the race to achieve the treble and stamp herself as one of the greatest stayers the racing world has seen.

The mare, carrying top weight of 58 kg, won by a more than a length from On A Jeune, with Xcellent in third place.

Makybe Diva's win sparked sustained applause from a mammoth crowd gathered at Melbourne's Flemington race course to watch the event.

Last year Makybe Diva became the first mare, and only the fourth horse, to win the Cup two years in a row. In that race, she beat Irish stayer Vinnie Roe, which returned this year for another unsuccessful crack at victory.

Makybe Diva takes its unusual name from the first two letters of the names of five women who work in a tuna factory operated by the mare's owner, former fisherman Tony Santic.

The Melbourne Cup, one of the world's richest races, is held at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.

Across Australia, all work ceases at 3 p.m. Tuesday (4 a.m. GMT) while an international field battles it out for one of the thoroughbred racing world's most prestigious events.

Along with Vinnie Roe, overseas competitors this year included Japanese stayer Eye Popper, the only horse to have beaten Makybe Diva over 3,200 meters, English imports Distinction and Franklins Gardens, and South African galloper Greys Inn. New Zealand entrant Xcellent was rated a strong chance.

As a national sporting and social event, there are few to match the Cup in Australia.

Restaurants, hotels and betting agencies across the nation are jam-packed as Australians flock to Cup lunches and celebrations, which provide as much an excuse to have a party as to study the equine form.

An estimated Aust. $125 million ($94 million) was expected to be wagered by Australians on this year's race. The event also attracts the attention of audiences in Asia, including the betting center of Hong Kong.

Around 70 percent of adult Australians place a bet on the race, albeit many of those via the ubiquitous office sweepstakes.

For many of those, the wager is the one and only they would make on a horse race until the next year's Melbourne Cup.

For others, it is a chance to dress up in their best clothes -- or their most ridiculous outfits -- and play their part in a long and revered Australian tradition.

Australian news shows Tuesday led off with reports on the weather in Melbourne, commentary on the state of the grass track at Flemington and how the two would combine to affect the possible outcome.

Most major newspapers had pictures of horses on their front pages and special supplements designed to assist novice horse fanciers taking part in office sweepstakes -- including details of each horse's form, its colors and odds.

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