The jockey created so much chatter in the weeks leading up to the $8.4 million Melbourne Cup (G1), the race that ‘stops the nation,’ a race that draws over 80,000 spectators to Flemington Racecourse.
His name is Mark Zahra, a veteran rider Down Under. A year ago, he won the Melbourne Cup with Gold Trip for trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
Instead of sticking with the defending champion in a bid for a rare repeat on Tuesday (Nov. 7 in Australia), the 41-year-old Zahara chose to climb aboard Without A Fight, a 7-year-old gelding he rode to victory over Gold Trip (third) in the $5 million Caufield Cup (G1) last month.
Without A Fight ($9) emerged from a cavalry charge to the finish in the 163rd Melbourne Cup and cruised to a 2 ¼-length victory over Soulcombe. Without a Fight became the 12th horse to complete the Caulfield-Melbourne double.
“The stars aligned for Gold Trip last year and aligned for this horse this year,” Zahra said. “Just a few things and the way he won the Caulfield Cup, I was confident he would run it.”
A crowd of 84,492 was on hand for the big day as Zahra became the seventh jockey to win the Melbourne Cup more than once. Without a Fight was bred and is owned by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum.
As Without A Fight crossed the finish of the 3,200-meter (1.99 miles) race, Zahra pumped a fist in the air and then raided up two fingers to signify a second Cup victory.
“I was able to travel and smoke up behind the right horses, and this horse has a good turn-of-foot,’’ Zahra told racingpost.com. “I got to the front, but I felt there was no way anything was coming from behind me, and boom! Away we went.
“For it to pay off, it’s justified.”
Gold Trip finished 17th in the 23-horse field. Sheraz was third; the favorite Vauban was 14th.
With a $3.6 million payday, Without A Fight more than doubled his earnings to $6,131,130 and boasts a record of 23-11-3-4.
The latest global rankings from Thoroughbred Racing Commentary (TRC) underwent a few changes following the Breeders’ Cup.
The top 10: Equinox for the 33rd straight week, followed by Elite Power, Cody’s Wish, Ace Impact, Auguste Rodin, Imperatiz, Inspiral, Hukum, and Mostahdaf.
Elite Power and Cody’ Wish, both trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, won the BC Sprint and BC Dirt Mile, respectively, in the final races of their careers.
Elite Power moved up from No. 5 to No. 2; Cody’s Wish from No. 6 to No. 3, and Auguste Rodin, winner of the BC Turf, from No. 21 to No. 5. BC Classic winner White Abarrio catapulted from No. 82 to No. 15.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) released its final top 10 poll, and Cody’s Wish is No. 1 after his dramatic victory in the BC Dirt Mile.
Cody’s Wish edged BC Classic winner White Abarrio in the balloting by 19 points after moving up three spots to finish No. 2.
Idiomatic is third, followed by Elite Power, Up to the Mark, Arcangelo, Goodnight Olive, Master of The Seas, and Auguste Rodin.
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.