Melbourne Cup winner Mark Zahra's redemption after racing ban

Melbourne Cup winning jockey Mark Zahra and his wife Elyse Zahra pose with the trophy.
Melbourne Cup winning jockey Mark Zahra won fans over with his heartfelt words after winning aboard Golden Trip. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Mark Zahra has left fans delighted with his emotional and amusing comments in the moments after riding Gold Trip to victory in the famous race.

A telling run through the final 500 metres saw Gold Trip ($19), prepared by co-trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustac, outpace Emissary and stablemate High Emocean.

MELBOURNE CUP LIVE: Gold Trip stuns favourites in memorable triumph

WOW: Melbourne Cup punters turn heads in staggering $1.8 million bet

Winning the 3200m classic has often brought out the rawest of emotions in jockeys as they are interviewed on the course after finishing, and Zahra was no exception.

Describing the moment he passed the post as 'unbelievable', Zahra said the final 100m of the race was completely nerve-wracking.

It was the element of humour he threw in that won him plenty of fans on social media.

“I feel like crying. It’s unbelievable,” Zahra said.

“I was hoping no-one would come near me. I was thinking just piss off! It’s just elation when I crossed the line.”

His post-race celebrations continued after he'd dismounted, with fans appreciating his down-to-earth response to winning one of the most famous horse races in the world.

Zahra's win in 2022 marks a remarkable turnaround from the position he found himself in just over a year ago, when he was suspended from racing for three months just prior to the spring carnival after lying about his presence at a house party with several other jockeys in August last year, during Melbourne's COVID-19 lockdown.

The 40-year-old was present at the Morninton Peninsula get together which also saw Jamie Kah, Ethan Brown, Ben Melham and apprentice jockey Celine Gaudray suspended for breaching lockdown restrictions.

The controversy resulted in Zahra missing the ride on Very Ellegant, who went on to win the 2021 Melbourne Cup - a twist of fate he said left him devastated.

“This time last year (I was) in Byron Bay and I was getting told off for drinking too much and it could have been my ride. Redemption day today. Just a miracle,” Zahra told Channel 10.

“12 months ago I felt terrible and probably drinking my way out of it and (my partner) was saying 'Don’t drink too much'.

"I said, “What do you want me to do? My horse just won the Melbourne Cup."

Mark Zahra finds redemption with Gold Trip in Melbourne Cup

Zahra settled Gold Trip worse than midfield in the hope he could ambush his rivals late in the race.

“I literally thought I’m a bit far back here but my one plan was not to be too close because I thought if I used fuel early I’d be weak late,” Zahra said.

“As they jammed up, I got to travel up and up and I thought I’m still travelling so good here.

“I waited and waited and with the horse I’ve always said when you go you’ve got to go. I was righto. And then I had a fair way to go.”

Under his 57.5kg impost, Gold Trip, a $21 chance, dashed past the favourite Deauville Legend ($4.40) only to be challenged immediately by Emissary ($26).

Co-trainers David Eustace and Ciaron Maher flank Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Mark Zahra, who rode Golden Trip to victory. (Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images for VRC)
Co-trainers David Eustace and Ciaron Maher flank Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Mark Zahra, who rode Golden Trip to victory. (Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images for VRC)

But when the race got serious over the final 200m, Gold Trip surged again for a decisive two-length win.

Emissary held on for second ahead of the fast-finishing High Emocean ($41) who got past Deauville Legend to take the minor placing – a further 1-1/4 lengths further back.

Maher has now completed a career sweep of the Melbourne spring carnival’s most important races.

He trained Jameka to win the 2016 Caulfield Cup and teamed up with Eustace for Cox Plate glory in 2020.

Maher said the race unfolded as the stable had wanted it to.

“We just wanted to wait, wait, wait and we know he’s got that good turn of foot. He was fantastic,” Maher said.

It was a triumph for an old-fashioned approach to Australia’s greatest race – as well as perseverance.

With AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.