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Melbourne Cup: Without A Fight wins as jockey Mark Zahra celebrates back-to-back triumphs

Without A Fight won the 163rd running of the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday, with jockey Mark Zahra celebrating back-to-back triumphs in Australia’s most prestigious race.

Zahra, who rode Gold Trip for his first cup win last year, steered the seven-year-old gelding to the front after rounding the final turn and burned away to win by two lengths on a hot and blustery afternoon.

The win secured a rare double in Australian racing, with Zahra having ridden the horse to victory in the Caulfield Cup last month.

“Unbelievable. To the trainer’s credit, he was an absolute gentleman for me today,” Zahra said. “He went to the rail, switched off. I just thought I’m going to stay here, they all made their moves, which opened it up for me and I was on a horse that you can just sit on.

“He’s got an electric turn of foot and he just pulled me all the way to the line and it was all over.”

Jockey Mark Zahra is given a hug after winning the Melbourne Cup. Photo: AFP

Zahra shook his fist in triumph in the saddle and waved two fingers in a V-sign at the crowd, a gesture he later felt awkward about.

“I got up on the hinds and gave it the two fingers. I was thinking the two winners, I don’t know what I was thinking, idiot,” he said.

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The father-and-son training pair of Anthony and Sam Freedman added another major piece of silverware to the family’s trophy cabinet. Anthony’s brother Lee Freedman won five Melbourne Cups between 1989 and 2005.

Without A Fight was rated a 7/1 chance by bookmakers just before the race.

“It’s been a great race for the family, it’s been a while between drinks and it’s good to get another one,” Sam Freedman said. “An extraordinary ride, [Zahra] got him onto the rail from a wide gate, relaxed, switched him off, made a run.”

Celebrated local trainer Chris Waller missed out on the win but his horses Soulcombe and Sheraz placed second and third in the A$8 million (US$5.17 million), two-mile handicap.

Pre-race favourite Vauban, trained by Ireland’s Willie Mullins, nosed in front at the final turn but faded badly to finish 14th, while stablemate Absurde could only manage seventh under Zac Purton.

While Purton’s hunt for an elusive Melbourne Cup victory goes on, he did snare one win on his hit-and-run mission to Flemington, taking out the Group Three Maribyrnong Plate (1,000m) aboard Dublin Down. Purton will return to Hong Kong to ride at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.

Three-times Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Damien Oliver rode Alenquer to 21st in his final Melbourne Cup, the gelding cleared to race by stewards in the morning after recovering from foot bruising.

However, Right You Are, trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, failed to finish and went for a vet inspection.

The field was reduced to 23 after the Kris Lees-trained Cleveland was scratched by stewards late on Monday.

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