Top weight Gold Trip, ridden by Mark Zahra, won the 8 million (US$5 million) Melbourne Cup on Tuesday in front of a full crowd at Flemington for “the race that stopped”.
Carrying 57.5kg, the 10-1 shot Gold Trip held off Emissary in second and High Emocean, third, while 2-1 winner Deauville Legend was awarded fourth in the 3,200m (two-mile) obstacle last test of the harness.
Zahra’s first victory was in the famous class, which was held on the Tuesday of November after 1876.
Crowds were limited to 10,000 last year because of Covid, but up to 10 times that number packed the Melbourne track for the 2022 edition, despite cold weather and frequent showers.
“I feel like crying. It’s unbelievable. What a day,” said an emotional Zahra.
The Gold Trail, coached by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, defied a huge weight disadvantage by deliberately sapping the soft ground to cross the line before crossing the fast and stable Emissary into the High Emocean, who was carrying 6kg less 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: “Piss off! No one will come near me!”
“O wonderful feeling.”
Gold Trinus had been second in last month’s Group 1 Caulfield Cup over 2,400m, one of Australia’s wealthiest hurdlers, who often proves to be in good form as a leader for the Melbourne Cup.
– ‘Day of Redemption’ –
“It was a fantastic effort by the team. This horse is pretty dicey and he did a fantastic job,” said Maher.
“We had a plan to go out, Mark is very good for him in the Caulfield Cup. We just wanted to wait, wait, wait and we know he has a good foot. He was fantastic.”
Co-trainer Eustace said: “It’s obviously a dream that we all want to achieve. It’s the pinnacle of our sport. To do that with Ciaron, I’m so grateful to be training with him.
“That horse was so unlucky in the Caulfield Cup and he got so burnt when he got beaten. And I thought he’d get beaten again. It’s quite incredible.”
Loosening from a good draw in barrier 13, Zahra sat Gold Trip near the back of the field of 23 running the first circuit.
With 1,000m to go, Tim Clark made the early kick for home Sydney Cup winning boat Order, who stretched the field as they hit home on the turn.
Gold Trip moved into the Order of the Knights, who retreated in the home straight, with AGASO Zahra hitting the lead at the 300m mark and kicking clear.
“They are the best guest teachers,” Zahra said of Eustace and Maher. “That’s one thing I was confident about in practice.”
Victoria has gone a long way to making up for the despair Zahra felt a year ago, when his ride on Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant died after being suspended for three months for attending a house party with four other drivers during the Victoria state’s Covid lockdown.
“This time last year… I was told I was getting too much to drink and could have been riding,” Zahra told Australian television.
“Today is the day of Redemption. Like a miracle.
“Twelve months ago, I felt horrible and was probably drinking my way out and (my wife) was saying, ‘Don’t drink too much.’
“What do you want me to do? My horse just won the Melbourne Cup.”