Jockey Mark Zahra capped a career-best day with a win on Verry Elleegant in the Caulfield Cup

Mark Zahra’s wife spent Friday night on weather watch before her husband capped the best day of his career with a Caulfield Cup win on Verry Elleegant.

Soft ground was always going to suit Verry Elleegant so the Zahra household was thrilled to hear rain on the roof on Friday night.

Zahra rode a treble in the lead-up races but was at his best on Verry Elleegant, who can make life tricky for her riders with the way she awkwardly carries her head, giving the impression she’s not travelling well.

The pair got on famously when combining to win the Turnbull Stakes at their previous outing before Verry Elleegant gave everything under the jockey to hold off the determined Irish visitor Anthony Van Dyck.

But Zahra said his first thought was on his gear as Verry Elleegant crossed the line a head in front of Anthony Van Dyck.

“All I was thinking across the line was, I took my rein in, this is going to look shithouse. But, nah, it’s a great feeling. Gee she’s tough when the other horse joined her,” Zahra said.

Verry Elleegant and Mark Zahra combine to win the 2020 Caulfield Cup.Source:Getty Images

“To win a Caulfield Cup, unfortunately no crowd, but to win a Cup is amazing.”

Zahra said keeping Verry Elleegant comfortable in the early and middle stages was the key to getting the daughter of unheralded Kiwi sire to produce her best at the finish.

“When she gets to 2400m the main thing is to get her in a rhythm,” Zahra said.

“I had to give her a razzle up on the turn but, like a say, she was very tough.”

Zahra said he and his wife won’t be spending Saturday night on weather watch. Celebrating his amazing day at the office was the priority.

“Tell the missus to put 10 bottles of champagne on ice and I suppose all we can do is drink it together,” Zahra said.

A buoyant Zahra returns to the mounting yard on Verry Elleegant.Source:Getty Images


Surprisingly, it took champion Sydney trainer 115 Group 1 wins and more than 3000 victories to land his first Caulfield Cup with Verry Elleegant.

Even more surprisingly, Waller’s previous 19 Caulfield Cup runners had failed to run a place.

But that all changed when Verry Elleegant’s class and tenacity got her over the line ahead of the 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck in a thrilling tussle at the end of the $5 million contest.

Waller watched the race from Randwick, where he had Nature Strip and Haut Brion Her running in The Everest, but he admitted he underestimated the gutsy mare in the straight.

“She’s tough and I thought she was beaten, to tell you the truth, at the 100m mark and she dug so deep,” he said.

“It’s different when you’re not there but it’s a very special win with a very special horse.”

Waller often considers what can go wrong with his horses in big races but he was mindful of the 55kg handicap Verry Elleegant had to overcome to give him his first Caulfield Cup.

“You think of all the negatives when you’ve got good horses around you,” Waller said.

“I thought that weight, 55 kilos, might not sound a lot to those at home, but I can assure you, Caulfield Cup history would suggest mares with 55 kilos, they don’t win very often.

“That just tells you how good she is.”

Jameka was the last mare to win the Caulfield Cup when she carried 52.5kg to victory in 2016 but Verry Elleegant eclipsed that performance on Saturday.

The Caulfield Cup was Verry Elleegant’s seventh Group 1 win since joining the Waller camp last year.

She’ll get her chance to notch her seventh Group 1 win and give Waller his first Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November.


Verry Elleegant wins Caufield

Horse Racing: The Chris Waller trained Verry Elleegant has won the 143rd Caufield Cup with a brilliant finish by rider Mark Zahra

Originally published asFamily’s rain dance pays off for unstoppable Zahra

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