Top jockey Mark Zahra says his decision to ditch defending Melbourne Cup winner Gold Trip, for Without A Fight, was an agonising one that had cost him some stern words from his Mum.
Zahra rode Gold Trip to glory last November, which was his first Melbourne Cup win, with it stunning the Flemington crowd with a blistering finish in the 3200m feature.
But the 41-year-old believes Gold Trip has had a tougher path to the 2023 Melbourne Cup, and Without A Fight presents a better winning opportunity.
“I would have said the decision was 60/40 in Without A Fight’s favour,” he told RSN.
“Last year, I thought Gold Trip, all his runs were on soft tracks and he had a soft run in a Caulfield Cup and he ran second… he didn’t get out in a Cox Plate on a soft track and then went to the Melbourne Cup.
“I reckon it’s a different kettle of fish this year. He’s had two hard runs on firm tracks, he’ll get a firm track again, I believe anyway, on Cup Day and I think Without A Fight is a better ride.”
“It was hard because I’m very good friends with a couple of owners in the horse so I had to tell them first – and I was having dinner with Ciaron. They wanted to kill me and my mum, she loves Gold Trip, so she was flat as well.
“It was an extremely tough choice… there wasn’t a great deal between them.”
Gold Trip is a $5 chance to win the Melbourne Cup with Neds Australia, with racing royalty James McDonald expected to be announced as Zahra’s replacement.
Without A Fight is also well-backed at horse betting sites, with Neds having the Anthony and Sam Freedman-trained six-year-old at $7.50.
The Melbourne Cup barrier draw will take place at Flemington racecourse on Saturday evening.