Champion jockey Mark Zahra has talked up Without A Fight’s Melbourne Cup prospects after steering the Irish import to Caulfield Cup glory.
Without A Fight flopped at Flemington last year in the race that stops the nation, finishing a disappointing 13th under the tutelage of UK trainers Simon and Ed Crisford.
His owner, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum, took the decision to leave him in Australia with Anthony and Sam Freedman – a move that has paid huge dividends.
Under Zahra, Without A Fight edged out the Crisfords’ West Wind Blows in Saturday’s Caulfield Cup, with last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Gold Trip finishing third.
Now there are even greater riches – not to mention redemption – on offer on the first Tuesday in November.
“You’ve got to have a crack,” Zahra said after a barnstorming Caulfield finish.
“That was second-up from a spell.
“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.
“The way he switched off this prep, in Brisbane (during winter) I thought he won’t run past 2000 metres, so I said send him to the Cox Plate.
“He just came back so much more relaxed, so you’ve got to have a crack (at the Melbourne Cup).”
Zahra rode Gold Trip to Melbourne Cup glory last year and is set to resume the partnership for the title defence.
A trip to the Cox Plate on Saturday also appears likely.
Zahra had already committed to Without A Fight by the time Gold Trip accepted a Caulfield Cup spot, leaving Ben Melham to pick up the ride in the world’s richest 2400m handicap.
Melham was glowing in his assessment of the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained galloper after finishing third as the 58.5kg top-weight, carrying 3kg more than the winner.
“The horse is going terrific moving forward, whether they go to the Cox Plate or Melbourne Cup,” Melham said.
“Especially the Melbourne Cup, the horse couldn’t be in any better order.”
After the Caulfield Cup, the TAB reduced Without A Fight’s Melbourne Cup quote from $15 to $7, with Gold Trip ($5) the second favourite behind Vauban ($4.50).