Winning jockey Mark Zahra has become the first rider to win back-to-back Melbourne Cups in 44 years and his mid-race move to runaway with victory has been lauded. Without A Fight stormed home from 200m out to become the first horse in 22 years to win both the Caufield Cup and Melbourne Cups in the same year.
However, with 600m to go in the race it appeared Without A Fight and Zahra were trapped against the fence. Zahra said he was confident in the staying power of the champion horse and he wasn't wrong.
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With 400m to go and heading around the bend, Without A Fight emerged from the pack in the middle of the track in an epic move to showcase Zahra's experience. And the duo charged over the line, putting some distance between them and the pack in one of the more incredible finishes in Melbourne Cup history.
Soulcombe and Sheraz finished behind the champion. Zahra was thrilled after the victory and immediately gestured the number two as he celebrated. He could have been referencing his second Melbourne Cup win on different horses, in as many years, with Harry White last completing the feat in 1978 and 1979.
He also could have been referring to the double he had completed. Without a Fight and Zahra became the first to win the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup double since Ethereal in 2001. Horse racing fans couldn't quite believe Zahra's epic move in the race and many lauded his finish as one of the all-time great rides.
Congratulations Mark Zahra!! 💪
The first jockey since Harry White in 1978 and 1979 to win the Melbourne Cup in consecutive years on different horses…and the crowd loves it! 🏆#MelbourneCup pic.twitter.com/hTKVkiOeFK
— World Horse Racing (@WHR) November 7, 2023
— Stephen R Power (@racingblogger) November 7, 2023
HISTORY IS MADE!!! 🐎
Without a Fight is the first horse to win the Caulfield Cup/ Melbourne Cup double since Ethereal in 2001 🤯
Special shout-out to Mark Zahra who won back to back Melbourne Cup’s 🏆🏆 The last jockey to win in consecutive years (on different horses) was… pic.twitter.com/d9ylRy4dtv
— The Cast Patrol (@thecastpatrol) November 7, 2023
What a superb ride by Mark Zahra. Absolute peach.
— Michael (@mickyt7) November 7, 2023
— Craig M (@diminutiverowdy) November 7, 2023
Mark Zahra overwhelmed after back-to-back wins
Winning jockey Zahra was left stunned after his history making ride. "Unbelievable," Zahra said after the win. "If I could have thought I’d have that run from 16, I would have said he’s unbeatable, but Sam and Lee and all their team, he was a gentleman for me today.
"He went to rail and switched off, and probably got to the front earlier than last year." Zahra said it was a tough decision to choose to turn down a run on last year's winner Gold Trip but said felt he was fated to ride Without a Fight in this year's race.
"Look, a good friend and someone I rate as one of the best judges in Australia... I spoke to him, and he said there’s not much in it, but if you can get him to settle, he will run it," Zahra added. "We went through the race and the weather forecast, the stars aligned for Gold Trip last year and aligned for this horse this year. Just a few things and the way he won the Caulfield Cup, I was confident he would run it."
Some 80,000 punters turned out at Flemington for 'the race that stops a nation' on Tuesday. A staggering $8.4 million prizemoney was up for grabs, with connections for the winner Without a Fight pocketing a cool $4.4 million.
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