Lexus Melbourne Cup
|Group 1 Handicap,
Flemington 04:00 (UK time)
3yo plus, 2m
1 Without A Fight 7/1
2 Soulcombe 17/2
3 Sheraz 150/1
4 Ashrun 25/1
23 ran NR: Cleveland
Distances: 2¼l, ½l, 2l Time: 3m 18.37s
Under the guidance of the astute jockey Mark Zahra, Without A Fight achieved a remarkable feat by adding this two-mile Group One classic to the Caulfield Cup.
Notably, the horse's journey to this pinnacle was quite the transformation. Formerly trained by Simon and Ed Crisford, Without A Fight had secured a modest 13th position in the Melbourne Cup the previous year. However, a mere 12 months later, it emerged as a clear-cut victor, a testament to the remarkable work of its new trainers, Anthony and Sam Freedman.
As the field gathered at the starting gate, all eyes were on the Willie Mullins-trained Vauban, who was the race favorite. The esteemed jockey Ryan Moore had positioned himself skillfully on the inside rail, settling in a promising fifth place. The early leader, Serpentine, famed for its 2020 Derby victory but now under Australian tutelage, set a determined pace.
Hollie Doyle, making her Melbourne Cup debut, showcased her mettle as she raced prominently aboard Future History. However, as the race approached the homestretch, the initial frontrunners began to fade under the immense pressure of this grueling test of endurance.
Ryan Moore, with Vauban, made his move, challenging for the lead and momentarily appearing poised to seize the victory two furlongs from the finish. Yet, in a dramatic twist, his stablemate Absurde surged from the outside to take the lead.
Amidst the unfolding drama, Mark Zahra, aboard Without A Fight, embarked on a sensational burst down the middle of the track. With a breathtaking turn of speed, he surged ahead a furlong from the finish, leaving no room for doubt in this exhilarating contest. Without A Fight sprinted home in exhilarating style, leaving another former British runner, Soulcombe, in second place and Sheraz in third.
Without A Fight's achievement was truly remarkable, marking the first time since Ethereal in 2001 that a horse had accomplished the coveted Caulfield-Melbourne Cup double. Furthermore, Mark Zahra etched his name into the annals of history as the first jockey since Harry White in 1978 and 1979 to secure consecutive Melbourne Cup victories on different steeds, having partnered with Gold Trip the previous year. This was a day of triumph and glory for Without A Fight and all those who believed in its unwavering spirit and potential.
“I thought the biggest opposition was my horse himself for being too keen,” Zahra said.
“Coming out the barriers cold, he’s a horse that settles much better on the fence, tucked away with all the horses around him, so I got him to the fence and he went to sleep straight away. I was following three great jockeys in Damien Oliver, James McDonald and Ryan Moore.
“It’s all about plotting the right path and I got to where I want to be. Last year I got a scare at the 200 (metre mark), at the 400 (this year) I thought I’m just home here.”
Zahra, who opted to ride Without A Fight over eventual 17th Gold Trip, said he felt in great shape and took a relaxed approach to the race.
He added: “I got it right for the Caulfield Cup and I have tried to keep it since then… you don’t want to think about the race too much, but you also have to do a bit of homework.”
Sam Freedman said he was positive going into the Melbourne Cup after Without A Fight’s performance in the Caulfield Cup.
“I was pretty confident. He actually had a better lead up to this race then he did for the Caulfield Cup,” he said.
“Mark didn’t know this but his lead up was not perfect going into it so when he won it was a real sort of, this horse might be something pretty freakish.”
It was Freedman’s first Melbourne Cup win, training the horse alongside his father Anthony. He is the nephew to Lee Freedman who trained three-time Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva.
“It’s pretty special, my great, great, great grandfather was a jockey and we gradually got a bit taller from there, he won three Melbourne Cups and then Lee obviously has won five, so it was nice to win one,” he added.
Doyle felt Future History had failed to see out the trip on the day.
She said: “He ran really well, got a nice pitch and got into a beautiful rhythm, I just think it tested his stamina late.”
Right You Are was pulled up in the race, with the horse later reported to be recovering after suffering from heat stress on a scorching day in Melbourne.
Lexus Melbourne Cup (Group 1 Handicap)
3yo plus, 2m (3200 Metres)
POS. (DRAW) DIST HORSE AGE WGT TRAINER JOCKEY SP
1 (16) Without A Fight 6 8-13 3ex Anthony & Sam Freedman Mark Zahra 7/1
2 (4) 2¼ Soulcombe 4 8-6 Chris Waller Joao Moreira 17/2
3 (22) ½ Sheraz 6 8-2 Chris Waller Beau Mertens 150/1
4 (11) 2 Ashrun 7 8-2 Ciaron Maher & David Eustace Kerrin McEvoy 25/1
5 (12) hd Daqiansweet Junior 6 8-2 Phillip Stokes Daniel Stackhouse 50/1
6 (17) ½ Interpretation 5 7-12 Ciaron Maher & David Eustace Teodore Nugent 40/1
7 (8) shd Absurde 5 8-5 W P Mullins Zac Purton 8/1
8 (10) 1¼ True Marvel 7 7-12 Matthew A Smith Ben E Thompson 150/1
9 (19) ¾ Vow And Declare 8 8-5 Danny O'Brien Billy Egan 30/1
10 (5) ¾ Military Mission 5 8-0 1ex Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Rachel King 25/1
11 (20) hd Okita Soushi 5 8-2 Joseph O'Brien Dylan Gibbons 100/1
12 (24) ¾ More Felons 4 7-13 2 Chris Waller Jamie Kah 25/1
13 (21) 4 Lastotchka 4 8-0 Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr Craig A Williams 25/1
14 (3) hd Vauban 5 8-9 W P Mullins Ryan Moore 9/2F
15 (13) ¾ Future History 5 7-12 Ciaron Maher & David Eustace Hollie Doyle 17/1
16 (18) hd Breakup 5 8-9 Tatsuya Yoshioka Kohei Matsuyama 17/1
17 (2) 9 Gold Trip 6 9-3 Ciaron Maher & David Eustace James McDonald 11/2
18 (6) 9 Virtuous Circle 4 8-0 Liam Howley Craig Newitt 150/1
19 (1) shd Serpentine 6 8-0 Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Jye McNeil 40/1
20 (14) nk Kalapour 6 7-12 Kris Lees Zac Lloyd 40/1
21 (9) ¾ Alenquer 5 8-13 Michael Moroney Damien Oliver 20/1
22 (7) 10 Magical Lagoon 4 8-0 Chris Waller Mark Du Plessis 100/1
PU (15) Right You Are 7 8-5 Ciaron Maher & David Eustace John Allen 30/1
NR 10 (23) Cleveland 5 8-3 1ex Kris Lees NON RUNNER
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