Mark Zahra has won the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup double after returning home to win at Flemington on Tuesday.
Zahra took part in the 2022 winner Gold Trip and did so back-to-back after betting on Without a Fight this spring carnival.
The victory makes Without a Fight the 12th horse in history to win the Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double.
Without a Fight returned home to beat the field in 23 local and international horse races over 3200m for a whopping $8 million prize.
The Irish gelding paid $7 for his victory, with Soulcombe finishing second and Sheraz, a $100 outsider, third in a huge shock.
But Zahra was the talk of the day, having made the decision to abandon Gold Trip after winning the Melbourne Cup aboard the French stallion last year.
It was a decision that paid off, having beaten Gold Trip to win the Caulfield Cup and then won the Melbourne Cup big prize.
It was also a decision that was rewarded with a $4.4 million salary.
“I told mom all these years that he couldn’t come on board because he was a heavyweight and now he had to choose between the two favorites.” Amazing. It’s amazing,” said coach Emma Freedman.
Commentator Michelle Payne, who won the 2017 Melbourne Cup 100-1 from Prince of Penzance, praised Zahra for her composure down the straight.
“You have to handle the big races and occasions and treat them like another race. That’s basically what it’s about,” she said.
“You can’t let opportunity get to you. It’s interesting to hear that Mark was so confident at the 400m mark. You won’t hear many jockeys say that.
“He was so lucky to be on a horse that could take him there. You could see he was doing it perfectly.
Zahra chose No Fight for the Gold Trip at Spring Carnival and won the Melbourne Cup for the second time in a row.
Zahra was victorious with Gold Trip at the 2022 Melbourne Cup, but switched horses to Without a Fight this year.
Zahra and Without a Fight clashed with Gold Trip at the Caulfield Cup in a memorable final
Zahra was at a loss for words, berating herself for holding up two fingers for winning two Melbourne Cups and calling herself an “idiot”.
“The stars aligned for Gold Trip last year and for this horse this year. Just a few things and the way he won the Caulfield Cup, I was confident he would captain it,” Zahra said.
Speaking later, he admitted giving Gold Trip “a little tap” before the Cup, but said he had put last year’s glory behind him.
I still wink at him but I’ve moved on. My only goal was to win again on this horse.
Fellow coach Sam Freedman described Zahra’s journey as “extraordinary”.
“He got him on the rail from a wide gate, relaxed, had him swimming and pretty confident, probably for the 800m he was doing. He just needed the brakes to come on. It’s a monster. No doubt about the trip there late. He was excellent.
Thousands of revelers attended the 2023 Melbourne Cup despite the threat of rain and thunderstorms on the day.
There was a full day of racing, including the Subzero Handicap won by Daniel Stackhouse on The Maggstar.
The race that stops a nation did not disappoint once again, much to the delight of the Flemington crowd.
Before the race even got underway, there was plenty of drama ahead of the 163rd running of the Melbourne Cup at Flemington.
Cleveland was deregistered Monday on the advice of veterinarians after the horse recorded a high temperature.
New Zealand hopeful Alenquer was also in doubt, which would have been disastrous as it would have deprived outgoing champion jockey Damien Oliver of a final Cup ride.
He only had a veterinary examination at 3.30am on race day, with Racing Victoria saying: “the gelding improved significantly overnight and was therefore deemed fit to race”.
European superstar Vauban was the early favorite to win and attracted massive bets, including nearly $1 million placed by one punter.
It was also a special day with Frank Reys honored at Flemington with a tribute to the only First Nations jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.
He was also the only jockey to win on barrier 24 when he bowed in 1973 aboard Gala Supreme.