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Bubbly to flow in Zahra household after Cup - Paul Vettise TDN AusNZ

Mark Zahra had a pretty good idea how he was going to celebrate his first G1 Caulfield Cup victory after partnering the resilient mare Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed {NZ}) to victory.


The Victorian jockey won the race to partner the quirky Verry Elleegant last month after regular rider James McDonald stayed in Sydney due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and it’s since proved to be a match made in heaven.


Zahra got his first feel of the Chris Waller-trained 5-year-old in the G1 Turnbull S. and they hit it off immediately with a lead-up win and it was more of the same at Caulfield where they repelled the challenge of the topweight Anthony Van Dyck (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}).


“I’ll be telling the missus to put 10 bottles of champagne on ice and I suppose all we can do is drink them together,” he said.


Zahra earned a celebratory drink or three after a grand ride on Verry Elleegant, who has now added the Caulfield Cup to a record that already featured Group 1 success in the Turnbull S., Tancred S., Winx S., Australian Oaks and the Vinery Stud S.


Image courtesy of George Salpigtidis/Racing Photos


Verry Elleegant was midfield in the early running with Zahra keen to keep her away from the fence.


“When she gets to 2400 metres it’s about getting her in a rhythm and I wasn’t in a bad spot, but the stablemate wanted to put me back on the fence which she didn’t like,” Zahra said.


“All I wanted to do was to get to the outside and I gave her a rev up on the turn and, like I say, she’s very tough and wasn’t going to be beaten.” - Mark Zahra

Verry Elleegant got the front and then had to withstand the challenge of Anthony Van Dyck and her fighting qualities were evident in the closing 100 metres when she pinned her ears back and stayed on strongly to land the major prize.


“It’s a great feeling and she’s so tough, the other horse joined her and she dug deep and to win a Caulfield Cup is amazing,” Zahra said.


First taste

It also plugged one of the few remaining holes on Waller’s CV with his first taste of success in the Caulfield Cup.


“It can’t be stressed enough what a big team effort it has been effort it has been,” Waller’s Melbourne representative Jo Taylor said.


“Sydney has done a fantastic job to get her down here and then our team here as well, who have worked tirelessly and certainly deserve a big result like this so well done to everyone involved.


“She’s just kept maturing and you’d imagine she will continue to do that.”


Image courtesy of George Salpigtidis/Racing Photos


Verry Elleegant will now attempt to follow in the path of another great Kiwi-bred staying mare in Ethereal (NZ) (Rhythm {USA}), who completed the major staying double in 2001.


“Hopefully, this year we will go on to a G1 Melbourne Cup and the further she goes, the stronger she gets. She is an incredible endurance athlete and Mark did a great job,” Taylor said.

“At one stage it looked like she was going to be caught on the fence, but he made sure she stayed off and he kept her out of trouble. She was certainly very tough.


“Chris will be ecstatic and he's so deserving. It’s a race that’s eluded us until now so it certainly means a lot.”