Without A Fight (+800) has stormed over the top to win the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on Saturday, taking home the major portion of the $5 million prize packet.
It comes after some drama in the lead-up, as the Anthony & Sam Freedman-trained gelding was re-inspected pre-race due to some lameness detected by VRC stewards on Thursday.
He was passed fit to run in the end and thankfully produced his electrifying best under Mark Zahra, securing Group 1 glory for the first time, and his first since arriving in Australia.
The son of Teofilo put the writing on the wall first-up in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m), powering through the line as a flashing light chasing gamely behind Alligator Blood.
It was an elite steer by Zahra, jagging back to find cover throughout the journey, which was necessary given the hectic tempo the leaders injected into the race.
Goldman (+8000), Spirit Ridge (+2200) and Hoo Ya Mal (+900) all looked to kick up and find the front, giving many of those drawn wide a chance to slot in for cover.
This included last year’s runner-up Gold Trip (+500), who was navigating a passage under Ben Melham, and West Wind Blows (+450), left the stalls a shade slower than Jamie Spencer would’ve liked.
West Wind Blows made the first move turning for home, and at one stage hit the front, leaving him and Without A Fight to knuckle down to task.
The latter pulled clear, while Gold Trip was crowded for room at a crucial stage, however, showed his class to find third spot with the massive weight.
2023 Group 1 Caulfield Cup Replay – Without A Fight | T: Anthony & Sam Freedman | J: Mark Zahra
Co-trainer Sam Freedman spoke post-race and it was pure emotion from the young trainer.
“It is a special day,” said Freedman.
“Got to say a particular thank you to Sheikh Mohammed Obaid who made the call to send the horse out in the first place and he left him out here.
“What a call. He’s pulled the right rein. The horse is brilliant on top of the ground.
“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.”
Freedman also went on to speak about how grateful he was to racing staff for allow their horse to race on Saturday.
“They made the right call.
“We were never worried. I think that is the most worrying thing. As a trainer you would never send a horse to the races that you didn’t feel was ready to go.
“This horse, we know his so well and all the staff, they work tirelessly to get these results and so when you’ve got that nervous wait, you’re feeling for them.
“They’re putting in the hours and it has been a tough enough six or twelve months.”
Mark Zahra couldn’t have been happier with the result, after getting the ride on Without A Fight some time ago.
“It is good when you have the results at the end but you have to choose them beforehand,” said Zahra.
“What a moment. I’m so happy.
“Had a beautiful run and he did the rest.
“Jamie Spencer, one of my best mates, he actually put a couple of lengths on me around the bend. I just struggled around the bend a little bit.
“Then when I flattened out in the straight, gee he was game. He wanted to win.”
When asked if Without A Fight could press on to a Melbourne Cup, Zahra gave a glowing reference.
“You’ve got to have a crack.
“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.”