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Zahra pulls right rein to win Cup on Without A Fight

Star jockey Mark Zahra has described winning the $8 million Melbourne Cup aboard Without A Fight as his "I told you so" moment after he vindicated the gut-wrenching decision not to attempt a title defence with Gold Trip.

Timing his run perfectly, Zahra steered Without A Fight to victory at Flemington on Tuesday ahead of the Chris Waller-trained pair Soulcombe and Sheraz.

Zahra pumped his fist with a mix of elation and relief as he crossed the line, having opted against riding topweight Gold Trip after their success in the race that stops a nation last year.

He instead jumped on Anthony and Sam Freedman's Without A Fight, just as he did for last month's Caulfield Cup triumph.

Mark Zahra crosses the line on Without A Fight.
Mark Zahra has won the Melbourne Cup on Without A Fight, repeating the pair's Caulfield Cup success.

The "head over heart" decision paid huge dividends for Zahra, who became the ninth jockey to win the Cup in successive years, and the first since Glen Boss steered Makybe Diva to a famous hat-trick in 2003-2005.

Zahra is the first to do so on different horses since legendary jockey Harry White, a record four-time winner, in 1978-79.

"Your first one is real elation - you can't really believe that you've actually done it - and this year it's similar elation but you know you can do it," Zahra said.

"You go in with a lot more confidence.

"It's still one of the best feelings in the world but when I crossed the line I was like, 'I told you so. I knew I picked the right horse and I told you I could win it'."

Zahra had chosen Without A Fight just 10 days before the Cup, hours after he steered Gold Trip to fifth in the Cox Plate.

He revealed racegoers were "giving it to me" about the decision even as he left the mounting yard to head to the barriers on Tuesday.

Weights came into it - Gold Trip was fighting history by lugging 58.5kg and Without A Fight carried 56.5kg - while the warm weather and firm track also favoured the Teofilo seven-year-old.

Without A Fight became the 12th horse in history to win the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double in the same year, taking Zahra's career tally to two wins in both races.

"The trophy cabinet's starting to look pretty good," Zahra said.

Mark Zahra celebrates winning the Melbourne Cup.
Twos up: Mark Zahra and Without A Fight lead home the field at the Melbourne Cup.

Cup favourite Vauban was well beaten in 14th for Willie Mullins and jockey Ryan Moore, while the legendary Irish trainer's well-backed Absurde was seventh under Zac Purton.

"Absurde ran a cracker. He was in a position to win at one stage coming up to the straight, didn't see it out," Mullins said.

"But Vauban was a little disappointing alright. He was beaten too far out for my liking.

"When I saw him at six furlongs out with Ryan having to give him a little niggle I thought, 'That's too far out for him to be niggling him'.

"He just flattened out and ran very disappointing, but there we are. That's the nature of this game."

Soulcombe, part-owned by a group of Richmond AFL premiership stars, ran second to a horse carrying the yellow-and-black colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum.

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Gold Trip finished 17th under James McDonald, while legendary jockey and three-time winner Damien Oliver finished 21st in his final Cup ride aboard Alenquer.

Right You Are failed to finish the gruelling staying test as the mercury hit 30.4C, but was later cleared by Racing Victoria vets as the Cup was run without a fatality for the third straight year.

Stewards were also happy, finding no breaches of whip rules or interference.