Without A Fight gives Zahra back-to-back Cup wins

7 November 2023 Written by Racing & Sports

Without A Fight has provided Mark Zahra with back-to-back victories in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.

Imported galloper Without A Fight has etched his name into the history books by taking out the 163rd running of the Melbourne Cup at Flemington

Brought out to Australia for last year's Melbourne Cup under UK trainers Simon and Ed Crisford, Without A Fight was not suited on the wet conditions, fading to finish 13th behind Gold Trip

But 12 months later, and in the care of Anthony and Sam Freedman, Without A Fight appreciated the firmer Flemington track that was upgraded to a Good 3 after the Melbourne Cup (3200m) on Tuesday, to race to a comfortable win under a brilliant ride from Mark Zahra

After settling back in the field, Zahra was able to weave a passage through the field from the hometurn to take Without A Fight ($8) to a 2-¼ length victory from Soulcombe ($9.50) with outsider Sheraz ($151) a further half-length away third. 

In winning the 2023 Lexus Melbourne Cup, Without A Fight became the first horse since Ethereal in 2001 to complete the Caulfield – Melbourne Cup double and the 12th overall. 

Zahra won the Cup last year on Gold Trip and had to make the difficult decision on whether to ride that galloper again or stick aboard Without A Fight after winning the Caulfield Cup on the gelding 17 days ago. 

"Mark Hunter is a good friend and I rate him as one of the best judges in Australia," Zahra said. 

"I spoke to him at length about it and he said 'you know, there's not much in it, but if you can get him to settle, he'll run it'. 

"We went through the race, the weather forecast. 

"The stars aligned for Gold Trip last year and they aligned for this horse this year. 

"I don't get to pick the result, I have to pick them before then and there was just a few things, the weight and the way he won the Caulfield Cup, I was confident he'd run it out today." 

Zahra said drawing barrier two and hugging the rails throughout allowed Without A Fight to have an easy run. 

He said he was fortunate that he had some of the best jockeys in the world to follow. 

"I was following Alenquer, probably not the best chance but D Oliver, in front of him was Gold Trip, in front of him was Vauban," Zahra said. 

"So, I thought I'm just going to stay here. They all made their moves, which opened up for me and I was on a horse 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. 

"I stood up in the irons and gave them the two fingers for two winners. 

"I don't know what I was thinking - idiot." 

Without A Fight's victory adds the father-and-son training team of Anthony and Sam Freedman to the record books. 

Anthony was part of Lee Freedman's haul of five Cup winners before the four brothers, Lee, Richard and Michael, went their separate ways. 

The last win for the Freedman family came in 2005 with Maybe Diva and Sam Freedman said it had been a long time between wins in the Cup for the family. 

Freedman senior is rarely seen at the races and Sam Freedman has been the face of the team. 

"It's been a great race for the family," Freedman said. 

"It's been a while between drinks but it's good to get another one and credit to the old man. 

"He's been incredible through all of this, his wisdom and experience in nursing a horse through like this. 

"He went up to Queensland with him and looked after him up here and got him right into form and brought him back to Victoria and he's been brilliant ever since so credit to him."