Mark Zahra wins second straight Melbourne Cup as Without a Fight romps home

The jockey has clinched a special piece of history at the great race.

Seen here, jockey Mark Zahra after winning the Melbourne Cup on Without a Fight.
Jockey Mark Zahra celebrates claiming his second straight Melbourne Cup after winning on Without a Fight in 2023. Pic: Getty

Jockey Mark Zahra has won his second successive Melbourne Cup after storming home to clinch victory on Without a Fight in front of tens of thousands of fans at Flemington on Tuesday. It was a special piece of history for the Aussie jockey, whose decision to turn down the ride on last year's winner Gold Trip paid dividends. Without a Fight crossed the line first ahead of Soulcombe and Sheraz.

Vauban - with jockey Ryan Moore on board - went into the big race as the favourite, with plenty of late money coming in for stablemate Absurde. The Zac Purton-jockeyed horse started the day at $21 but saw a dramatic plunge into single-figure odds before the start of the race.

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Gold Trip was hoping to go back-to-back after taking out last year's race for for trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace. However, Zahra opted to take the ride on Without a Fight this year and was vindicated as the jockey delivered for trainer Anthony Freedman.

"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."

Mark Zahra in stunning 44-year Melbourne Cup first

The win was extra special for Zahra, who becomes the first jockey since 1979 to win back-to-back Melbourne Cups on two different horses. Without a Fight is also just the 12th horse in history to complete the coveted Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double.

Zahra’s wife Elyse and her unforgettable celebrations have stolen the headlines in the past but the jockey's wife was more composed this time around. Elyse could be seen running up onto the track to congratulate her husband with a kiss on the cheek as she let out a loud victory roar.

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.

Delta Goodrem chose a bright yellow dress for her arrival at Flemington but changed into a blue dress before singing at the Cup for the first time in 16 years. The Aussie pop star busted out a soulful rendition of her hit 'Born to Try' before Noiseworks front man Jon Stevens belted out the band's hit, Take Me Back. It was then up to another Aussie pop princess Natalie Imbruglia to perform the national anthem.

The Cup field was reduced to 23 runners after the scratching of Cleveland on Monday evening. Just hours after being cleared by vets from Racing Victoria, Cleveland was ruled out due to a high temperature.

There were concerns that Damien Oliver's fairytale final ride in the Melbourne Cup would also be ruined after his mount Alenquer suffered a stone bruise on his hoof. Racing Victoria vets conducted an inspection on Tuesday morning and ultimately deemed the gelding suitable to take its place in the race.

Damien Oliver gets early win on farewell day

Oliver won twice on Victoria Derby Day last Saturday in a fine start to Cup week. He rode the Kris Lees-trained Kalapour to victory in the Lexus Archer Stakes, helping it qualify for the Melbourne Cup. He then won again with Queen Of The Ball for Michael Freedman in the Furphy Sprint.

Damien Oliver's Melbourne Cup day farewell included victory on board Wiggum in the Schweppervescence Plate. Pic: Getty
Damien Oliver's Melbourne Cup day farewell included victory on board Wiggum in the Schweppervescence Plate. Pic: Getty

Oliver got his Melbourne Cup farewell off to a strong start early in the day after claiming victory in the Schweppervescence Plate on board Wiggum. The triumph for Oliver was the legendary Aussie jockey's 21st victory on Cup day and his 87th across the entire Melbourne Cup weekends combined - with no jockey riding more winners.

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