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Australian Racing: Without A Fight could target Melbourne Cup double

Despite all the pre-race talk of Vauban being the horse to beat, it was Without A Fight who claimed victory in the 2023 Melbourne Cup and the $4.75million first prize.

The Caulfield Cup winner built on October’s success with an impressive 2 ¼ length victory in Australia’s biggest race – seeing off the challenge of Soulcombe, who finished second, with Sheraz another ½ length back in third.

Without A Fight, trained by Aussie pair Anthony and Sam Freedman, has been made 15.00 joint-favourite to win the showpiece race again in 2024.

Zahra makes the right choice

Quite a few eyebrows were raised when jockey Mark Zahra decided to ride Without A Fight ahead of last year’s winner Gold Trip.

But having ridden him in his last four races, the Australian sided with the former British runner and it proved to be the right choice.

Zahra hit the front with a furlong to run and sprinted home to pull clear of the chasing pack, with Gold Trip, ridden by James McDonald, back down the field in 17th.

The winning jockey admitted afterwards that he had full confidence in the six-year-old – who is 11.00 to win April’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes - and that his previous Melbourne Cup win gave him the belief he could cross the line first again.

Zahra revealed: "He relaxed well on the rail and I was confident in his ability as he has an electric turn of foot.

"When I came off the rail, he quickened well, and while I hit the front early, I felt there was nothing going to come from behind me.”

Favourite Vauban struggles Down Under

After back-to-back victories in the British summer, Willie Mullins’ Vauban was expected to run a big race in Melbourne and went off as the 5.50 favourite.

The Irish charge, ridden by Ryan Moore, tucked in on the inside rail during the middle part of the race and looked to be in contention.

Moore then switched Vauban out to challenge for the lead two furlongs from home, but others then sprinted past him in the home straight and he eventually finished 14th in a 23-runner field.

There have been some suggestions that the five-year-old, a former Cheltenham Festival winner over hurdles, could take part in December’s Hong Kong Vase – with the Mullins charge available to back at 15.00.

More to come from Soulcombe

At just four-years-old, second-placed Soulcombe suggested there is much more to come and he is certainly one to watch over the next couple of seasons.

Just like the winner, Soulcombe was formerly trained at Newmarket in the UK and has shown some good form under trainer Chris Waller.

A Listed Handicap win at Caufield in September was an indication of what he might be capable of and after finishing second at 9.50, connections will hope for more success going forward.

His jockey Joao Moreira said after the race: "Missing the start isn't ideal, but Soulcombe is a great horse. He's a genuine two-miler and he'll get his chance again.

“He's still a little bit quirky but once we get him worked out, he'll be better."

Soulcombe is currently available at 16.00 to win the 2024 Caulfield Cup, while the 2023 runner-up can be backed at 14.00 to go one better at Flemington in 2024.

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