Horse racing: Topweight Gold Trip gives jockey Mark Zahra his first Melbourne Cup

Gold Trip (right) winning the A$8 million (S$7.24 million) Melbourne Cup with jockey Mark Zahra astride at Flemington on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE – Topweight Gold Trip, ridden by Mark Zahra, won the A$8 million (S$7.24 million) Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, as full crowds returned to Flemington for the “race that stops a nation”.

Carrying 57.5kg, the 10-1 shot held off Emissary by two lengths, with High Emocean, third, 1¼ lengths away.

The 2-1 favourite Deauville Legend finished fourth, another 1¾ lengths adrift, in the 3,200m handicap considered the ultimate test of stamina.

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 in 2021 because of Covid-19, but up to 10 times that number packed into the Melbourne track for the 2022 edition, despite chilly weather and frequent showers.

“I feel like crying. It’s unbelievable. What a day,” said an emotional Zahra.

Trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Gold Trip defied a huge weight disadvantage on energy-sapping soft ground to cross the line ahead of the fast-finishing Michael Moroney-trained Emissary and stablemate High Emocean. Both horses carried 6kg less than the winner.

“He’s a horse that when you go, you don’t give him a chance to think about it,” said Zahra.

“I was thinking: ‘Piss off! No one come near me!’. It was just elation when I crossed the line.

“What an amazing feeling.”

Gold Trip ran second in October’s Group 1 Caulfield Cup over 2,400m, one of Australia’s richest handicaps which often proves to be a good form guide for the Melbourne Cup.

“A fantastic effort by the whole team. This horse is quite dicey and he’s done a fantastic job,” said Maher.

“We had a plan going out, Mark was very good on him in the Caulfield Cup. We just wanted to wait, wait, wait and we know he’s got that good turn of foot. He was fantastic.”

Co-trainer Eustace said: “It’s obviously a dream that we all want to achieve. It’s the pinnacle for our sport. To do it with Ciaron, I’m so grateful to be training with him.

“This horse was so unlucky in the Caulfield Cup and so gutted when he got beat. And I thought he would get beat again. It’s just quite incredible.”

Breaking from a good draw in barrier 13, Zahra settled Gold Trip near the rear of the 23-runner field for the first circuit.

With 1,000m to go, Tim Clark made an early kick for home aboard Sydney Cup winner Knights Order, who stretched the field as they hit the home turn.

Gold Trip reeled in Knights Order, who faded on the home straight, with jockey Zahra hitting the lead at the 300m mark and kicking clear.

“They’re the best trainers of stayers,” said Zahra of Eustace and Maher.

“That’s one thing I had confidence in their training.” AFP

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