Without A Fight takes out the 2023 Caulfield Cup

Mark Zahra’s faith in Without A Fight was vindicated when the imported galloper provided the jockey a second Caulfield Cup in four years.

In different scenes from his win aboard Verry Elleegant when there were no crowds on course because of COVID, Zahra defeated his close friend Jamie Spencer aboard English galloper West Wind Blows in a race that was on from the outset.

Goldman and Spirit Ridge set a solid tempo and when the halfway mark was reached, the 18-horse field was spread out over 30 lengths.

Without A Fight and West Winds Blows gradually moved into contention nearing the hometurn with the Australian born Zahra and Englishman Spencer extracting the best from their mounts.

Both horses were once stablemates in the Simon and Ed Crisford stable before Without A Fight joined Anthony and Sam Freedman after last year’s Melbourne Cup.

At the finish, Without A Fight ($8.50) scored by a long head from the $5.50 bookmakers favourite West Wind Blows with Gold Trip ($6.50) two lengths away third.

While ecstatic with the victory, Zahra was later slapped with a seven-meeting suspension and a $50,000 fine for using the whip in excess of the permitted level.

His suspension commences after the Cox Plate meeting at Moonee Valley next Saturday and he can return for Victoria Derby Day, November 4.

Zahra said it was agonising having to choose between Without A Fight and his Melbourne Cup winner Gold Trip.

The jockey was made to sweat as Without A Fight was deemed lame in a pre-race Racing Victoria veterinary inspection on Thursday afternoon, before being cleared to start 24 hours later.

“I had to give myself an uppercut, I reckon, about Thursday,” Zahra said.

“I didn’t sleep Wednesday night just thinking about, it was like someone stealing your missus someone else getting the ride on Gold Trip, and I was just a bit shattered.

“I thought, f…, he’s my horse, I won the Melbourne Cup on him, and I have a great bond with him. A bit of an emotional bond I don’t have with any other horse, Gold Trip.

“On Thursday I thought, what are you doing? You picked this horse (Without A Fight) and I said to Sam Freedman after the last start that he’ll win the Caulfield Cup.

“I said it was time to stop worrying about Gold Trip and time to focus on Without A Fight. Then the vet stuff came up, but I was always confident that he would pass because Sam and Anthony said he’s just a lazy trotter.

“By Friday I was finally right. I went through the form with Mark Hunter, and we sorted it out. I got the spot I wanted, and he was too strong.”

Without A Fight remains in contention for the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 7 and is liable for a rehandicap following Saturday’s win.

That will pose a further headache for Zahra as Gold Trip remains on target for that race also.

“You’ve got to have a crack,” Zahra said.

“That was second-up from a spell. It’s a great training performance from the Freedmans to get him right today so you think there’s got to be a little bit of improvement.”

Sam Freedman said to train the winner of the Caulfield Cup with his father was a special day adding that it was the decision by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid to send Without A Fight to the stable.

Freedman built a relationship with the Sheikh when working in England with Roger Varian.

“It was with a horse called Postponed and I’m thankful to have a little bit to do with him and met him at the races going back seven years and kept up the connection,” Freedman said.

“Down the line, here we are.

“What a call. He’s pulled the right rein. The horse is brilliant on top of the ground.

“A particular thank you to Mornington Racing Club. They’ve given us access to the course proper as much as we needed.

“He went from the 1800 (metres) to the mile-and-a-half.

“He’s just a good horse.”

About RS NewsWire

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