The first Tuesday in November didn’t disappoint with Mark Zahra and Without A Fight combining to create history in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
After riding Gold Trip to a win last year, Zahra again found himself in the winner’s stall at Flemington, storming clear down the centre of the track aboard this year’s Caulfield Cup winner.
Despite the wide gate, the pair were gifted a tidy ride in transit getting right back in the run, slicing their way through the pack around the 300m mark when a late gap appeared.
From there, the race was over- the $8.50 pop finding the same turn of foot that saw him prevail at Caulfield only three weeks earlier.
Trained by Anthony & Sam Freedman, the son of Teofilo joins elite company by becoming the first horse since Ethereal to complete the Caulfield – Melbourne Cup double.
As for Zahra, the spring’s in-form hoop also became the first jockey to win back-to-back Cups on different horses since Harry White did so way back in 1979.
Zahra’s decision to hop off Gold Trip in favour of his Caulfield Cup ride did raise a few eyebrows, but based on what he said after the race, it’s not hard to see why.
“If I could have thought he’d have that run from the 1600m (mark) I would have said he was unbeatable,” Zahra told Channel 10.
“He was an absolute gentleman today. Went to the rail, switched off, and I probably got to the front earlier than last year, but I just had that soft of a run.”
Group 1 success is what every trainer strives for, but Sam Freedman said afterwards that his time spent up in Queensland really helped his star Irish stayer develop.
Without A Fight won the Lord Mayors Cup and the weight-for-age Q22 out to 2200m, a pair of runs that set him up beautifully for the spring.
“It was very important. He was pretty good up in Queensland, very impressive,” Freedman told racing.com.
We saw that when he won over nine furlongs, and he backed that up with a Q22 run.
He ran a good race in the Underwood, but QLD really set him up, he was fit and well. An older horse, we put him in the paddock for a week and he was running the fence, then we put him back in work.”
After blowing the start, Soulcombe ran a huge race to grab second – his third top-five placing in three Group 1 starts this campaign.
Sheraz was the other surprise in the race, following the back of Without A Fight to grab third.
The Chris Waller gelding had struggled for runs in the Bart Cummings and Moonee Valley Cup leading in, but was granted all the favours in the run home despite jumping from barrier 22.
For the complete 2023 Melbourne Cup finishing order, click here.