Melbourne Cup winner Mark Zahra returns with a win

Mark Zahra wasted no time getting his name back onto the winner’s list, tasting victory at his first ride back after the month-long suspension he incurred for his involvement in a fall at Flemington earlier this year.

Last year’s Melbourne Cup-winning hoop partnered the David and Emma-Lee Browne-trained Le Zebra to victory in the $150,000 Ian Miller Handicap that kicked off Saturday’s Sandown card.

Zahra conceded the first ride back took a bit out of him, despite being over only 1300m, after around four weeks interstate.

“I pretty much went straight to Byron Bay and put the feet up there for a month,” Zahra said.

“I ate and drank and slept, did all the things that jockeys can’t do.

“But I’ve been doing this a long time now, so we’re back into the routine.”

Zahra was suspended for 36 meetings for causing interference aboard Holymanz in the Group 1 Australian Guineas on March 4.

The Sandown meeting was his first since riding at Randwick on April 1.

Le Zebra, a New Zealand-bred son of Rip Van Winkle, was having his first start since finishing third in the Mornington Sires (1200m) on April 22 with his only earlier start a fourth placing behind Amur at The Valley in January.

Zahra was able to dictate from the front at Sandown aboard the $5 unibet chance, holding three-quarters-of-a-length over Lady In Pink ($11) at the line with Optume ($6.50) a head back third.

“I was first-up from a spell, so it took a bit out of me, but he was good in the run,” Zahra said.

“The further we went, the more he got into his rhythm and he just kept improving and gave a little kick when I needed.”

Zahra will return to the Group 1 stage next Saturday when he partners Promises Kept for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace in the $500,000 South Australian Derby (2500m) at Morphettville.

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