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D'Ivina intervention saved promising mare

6 min read
The relationship between horse and strapper is always close, but in the case of Aqua D'Ivina, it was life-saving.

If not for the close relationship between Aqua D'Ivina (Pierro) and strapper Nathan Davis, managing owner Christine Cook believes the mare wouldn’t have survived the colic attack which threatened her life earlier this year.

It was Davis who noticed that all wasn't right with Aqua D'Ivina and his quick action is what Cook credits as probably saving the filly's life.

"You have to admire the way that people look after these horses," Cook told TDN AusNZ ahead of Aqua D'Ivina's shot at the G2 7News Matriarch S. at Flemington on Saturday.

"You have to admire the way that people look after these horses." - Christine Cook praising the stable staff

"I'm talking about the stable people. They know their horses literally inside and out and when she wasn't doing what she was supposed to do naturally on a daily basis, Nathan, her strapper said to Matt (Smith the trainer), I think we've got a problem," she said.

"That was wonderful. It was a really lucky, lucky thing that it was picked up so early."

It's been a week where the lack of appreciation and understanding in the wider public about how much effort and emotion is invested into preparing a thoroughbred has been brought into sharp focus.

Aqua D'Ivina owes her survival not only to Davis' diligence, but the hard work of a team of people to diagnose and treat the issue and then nurse her back to health.

The complexity of horse physiology makes it a tough journey for all involved and Cook admits there was a long period of uncertainty for Aqua D'Ivina.

"Our darling friend Linda Duckworth who looks after our horses out at Fairview Park said to me that when Aqua D'Ivina got off the float after coming from the vets, she thought she was going to be the bearer of bad news," Cook said.

"It worked out well in the end and it shows how tough she is, she obviously takes after her mother (Aqua D'Amore (Danehill {USA})."

"It worked out well in the end and it shows how tough she is, she obviously takes after her mother." - Christine Cook

Again, it was Davis who stepped up during her recovery, spending considerable time with Aqua D'Ivina as she recovered her strength.

"The fact that Nathan went to see her all the time was a big thing. When we are in hospital, we like to see friendly faces," Cook said. "He went and saw her every second day and then was out at Linda's every weekend and took her out for a walk."

No Guarantees

That level of devotion got her back on track, but there was never any guarantee that Aqua D'Ivina would recover the form which saw her win two of her first four starts before her setback.

"Statistically, it doesn’t turn out as well as she has. Any trainer will tell you, you don’t know what has actually happened to them inside that can then effect what happens to them on the track," she said.

"You don’t know what has actually happened to them inside that can then effect what happens to them on the track." - Christine Cook

"I know what I'm like if I've got a sore muscle, you aren't going to race really hard to go through the pain threshold."

But Smith has done a superb job with her and after finishing second-up in her first-up run, she has won her past two races at benchmark level to stamp herself as a potential Group class mare.

The wow effect

For Cook, the Aqua D'Ivina journey began ahead of the 2016 Magic Millions, when her husband. Francis, of Mystery Downs, was inspecting potential yearlings.

"Her look really appealed. As my husband regularly tells me, he wrote 'WOW!; on the page when he had a look at her. We look at a lot, a lot, a lot of horses and he just loved her. She just looked fabulous," she said.

Aqua D'Ivina as a yearling

"As my husband regularly tells me, he wrote 'WOW!; on the page when he had a look at her." - Christine Cook on Aqua D'lvina as a yearling

Being out of Group 1 winner in Aqua D'Amore, she was never going to be cheap, but Francis landed her with one big bid of $150,000.

"Her breeding was a blessing, coming out of Aqua D'Amore, but she just had a presence about her. She went for more than we thought than she'd go for, but we thought 'Who cares?' We’d been the underbidder on so many good horses," Christine said.

One for the girls

A few years earlier, Magic Millions had introduced the Racing Women's Initiative, offering bonuses for female-owned or leased horses in their feature 2YO Classic race.

With that in mind, Christine pulled together some friends and family to race a filly with Smith called Faraway Town (Not A Single Doubt), who would run sixth in the 2016 edition of the 2YO race and go on to be a wonderfully consistent mare, winning a Group 3 race and over $800,000 in prizemoney.

"When we had the luck with Matthew with Faraway Town all the girls thought 'How good is this?" It became that thing that no matter what we bought at the sales, we'd do it again. With most of our trainers, we would buy at least two horses, the idea that we would be, we would look at them as an all-girls syndicate to go for the money at the Magic Millions," she said.

Francis and Christine Cook celebrating a win for Faraway Town

"They are now all close friends and family and we like to keep it ten because it is easy for us to manage that, so it's a good combination, and it’s a good way to do it," she said.

"When we had the luck with Matthew with Faraway Town all the girls thought 'How good is this?" - Christine Cook

"And it gets women into racing, and of course, when you get a horse like Aqua D'Ivina, you know they’ve 'drunk the Kool-Aid' then, because of the success she has had."

They will be drinking a lot more than Kool-Aid should their comeback queen salute in the Matriarch S. on Saturday.

"We always expect a place. We are women and we are cautious, and we hope a place, that would be great," Cook said. "It’s a lovely story and we are very lucky it has worked out the way it has."