Can Gold Trip Win Back-To-Back Melbourne Cups? - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Can Gold Trip Win Back-To-Back Melbourne Cups?

 Gold Trip winning 2022 Melbourne Cup. (photo courtesy Sky Racing World)

Immediately after a successful Breeders' Cup in California, English jockey Ryan Moore pointed his global compass Down Under. On Monday night, the world's top-ranked jockey will bid for a second Melbourne Cup, aboard hot favorite Vauban, in the “race that stops a nation.”

Moore's global credentials notwithstanding, the biggest storylines are the excruciating choice between two top chances for Mark Zahra – and the farewell Cup ride of an all-time Australian great, Damien Oliver, aboard last year's winner Gold Trip, who seeks a record-equaling fourth victory in his country's most famous race, before retiring at year's end. The two-mile handicap is the seventh on a 10-race card at Flemington Racecourse. The gigantic field of 24 will spring from the gate at 11:00 p.m. Eastern (8:00 p.m. Pacific) and will be broadcast by FanDuel TV and Sky Racing World.

Vauban (5-2) has maintained a prominent place in future book wagering since cruising around Royal Ascot with his ears pricked to win (beneath Moore) by seven lengths at 1 3/4 miles. After starting his career in France, Vauban was bought by the same connections who finished second and third in the Melbourne Cups of 2015 and 2017 with a horse named Max Dynamite.

Irish trainer Willie Mullins has followed the same unusual approach, racing Vauban (very successfully) over jumps before reverting to “flat” racing. The 6-year-old gelding turned heads during a powerful morning workout at Flemington last week, prompting rival Australian trainer Mick Price to concede that Vauban “will be the toughest, fittest soundest horse in the race … I felt tired just looking at it!” Vauban is feeling so hungry for success that he left assistant trainer David Casey with a massive, kaleidoscopic bruise on his hip. Owner Rich Ricci gets too nervous to watch live despite being on-track, “but if he wins, I'd be delighted to watch the replay a few times.”

Vauban's stiffest opposition is expected to come from last year's winner, Gold Trip (7-2) and recent Caulfield Cup winner Without a Fight (6-1), who have presented jockey Mark Zahra with a massive conundrum. Gold Trip gave Zahra his first Melbourne Cup win (watch replay) and has displayed superior lead-up form to this year's renewal. Even after Zahra steered Without a Fight to victory in a thrilling Caulfield Cup, historically the most productive prep race for the Melbourne Cup, he was still expected to stick with Gold Trip.

Zahra described his decision to abandon Gold Trip as “an extremely tough choice that was 60/40 in Without a Fight's favor.” The most significant factor was the weather forecast. Last year, Gold Trip had his preferred soft footing in his last two prep races as well as in the Melbourne Cup. Zahra believes “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 on Cup Day and I think Without a Fight is a better ride.”

Connections of Gold Trip will lose nothing with the services of James McDonald, who landed his first Melbourne Cup in 2021 aboard Verry Elleegant. Thus, the last two winning riders are pitted against each other in an intriguing subplot to the 2023 renewal of the great race.

While Mark Zahra's choice of mounts has generated considerable attention, the sentimental favorite among Australian racing fans will be 51-year-old Damien Oliver, who will ride in his last Melbourne Cup before retiring next month. Oliver's glittering career has netted him 129 Group 1 victories, including three Melbourne Cups. In the race's 162-year history, only two jockeys have won the race four times.

“Ollie” will strive for a farewell gift that leaves a lasting memory when legged up aboard 70-1 longshot Alenquer, whose trainer Mike Moroney finished second last year with 25-1 shot Emissary (and who trained the winner in 2000). Damien Oliver's first Melbourne Cup win was in 1995 and his latest in 2013, but his most special and memorable came on Media Puzzle in 2002 – just a week after elder brother Jason was killed in a trackwork accident. (Oliver's father Ray, also a jockey, died in a race fall in 1975.)

If Gold Trip's highweight of 128 pounds seems significant, spare a thought for the favorite in Sydney's feature race on Monday night. Cepheus (3-1) must lump 136 pounds in a $3 million race called the Big Dance (the fifth at Royal Randwick). Victorious in three of his past four starts, Cepheus carried the same weight winning a race in July and won't spend a penny from gate 1 in the 20-strong field.

The Flemington card will be broadcast on FanDuel TV this Monday night (First Post: 6:45 p.m. ET / 3:45 p.m. PT) alongside cards from Randwick, Eagle Farm and Ascot. All races will be live-streamed in HD on the new Sky Racing World and major ADW platforms such as TVG, TwinSpiresXpressbet, NYRABets, WatchandWagerHPIbet, FanDuel and AmWager. Wagering is also available via these ADW platforms. Fans can get free access to live-streaming, past performances, and expert picks on all races at

About Michael Wrona

A native of Brisbane, Australia, Michael Wrona has called races in six countries. Michael's vast U.S. experience includes; race calling at Los Alamitos, Hollywood Park, Arlington and Santa Anita, calling the 2000 Preakness on a national radio network and the 2016 Breeders' Cup on the International simulcast network. Michael also performed a race call voiceover for a Seinfeld episode called The Subway.

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