Heavyweight Gold Trip, ridden by Mark Zahra, won the A$8 million (US$5 million) Melbourne Cup on Tuesday as packed crowds returned to Flemington for ‘The Race to Stop a Nation’ .
Weighing 125 lb (57.5 kg) Gold Trip edged out 10-1 against Emissary in second and High Emocean in third, with 2-1 favorite Deauville Legend in fourth in the 10,000 ft handicap (two miles), which is considered the ultimate test of endurance.
It was Zahra’s first victory in the famous race, which has been held on the first Tuesday of November since 1876.
Crowds were limited to 10,000 last year because of Covid, but despite the cool weather and frequent showers, up to 10 times that number were counted at the Melbourne track for the 2022 edition.
“I feel like crying. It’s incredible. What a day,” said an emotional Zahra.
Gold Trip, coached by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, braved a huge weight disadvantage on exhausting soft ground to cross the finish line ahead of the fast-paced Emissary and his stablemate High Emocean, both of whom were 6kg lighter than the winner.
“He’s a horse that when you go, you don’t give him a chance to think about it,” Zahra said.
“I thought, ‘Fuck off! Nobody comes close to me!’. It was just exhilaration when I crossed the finish line.
“What an incredible feeling.”
Gold Trip had finished second in the Group 1 2,400m Caulfield Cup last month, one of Australia’s richest handicaps and often proving to be a fine form guide for the Melbourne Cup.
– ‘Redemption Day’ –
“A fantastic performance by the whole team. This horse is pretty hot and did a fantastic job,” said Maher.
“We had a plan, Mark was very good to him at the Caulfield Cup. We just wanted to wait, wait, wait and we know he has that good foot spin. He was fantastic.”
Assistant coach Eustace said: “It’s obviously a dream we all want to achieve. It’s the pinnacle of our sport. To do it with Ciaron I’m so thankful to train with him.
“This horse was so unlucky at the Caulfield Cup and so gutted when it got beaten. And I thought he was going to get hit again. It’s just incredible.”
After a good draw in Barrier 13, Zahra placed Gold Trip at the bottom of the 23-man field for the first round.
With 1,000m to go, Tim Clark aboard Sydney Cup winner Knights Order took an early kick for the home game, widening the field as they hit the home corner.
Gold Trip caught up with Knights Order, who faded down the stretch while jockey Zahra hit the lead at the 300m mark and kicked free.
“They are the best coaches for stayers,” said Zahra of Eustace and Maher. “That’s one thing I had confidence in their training.”
The win went a long way to making up for the desperation Zahra felt a year ago when he missed the drive with Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant after being suspended for three months for being immobile during the Covid lockdown State of Victoria attended a house party with four other jockeys.
“This time last year … I was accused of drinking too much and it could have been my ride,” Zahra told Australian TV.
“Redemption Day today. Just a miracle.
“Twelve months ago I felt awful and probably drank myself out and[my wife]said ‘don’t drink too much’.
“What should I do? My horse just won the Melbourne Cup.”