MELBOURNE: Top weight Gold Trip, ridden by Mark Zahra, won the Aus$8 million (US$5 million) Melbourne Cup on Tuesday as full crowds returned to Flemington for the “race that stops a nation”. Carrying 57.5kg, 10-1 shot Gold Trip held off Emissary in second and High Emocean, third, with 2-1 favourite Deauville Legend fourth in the 3,200m (two-mile) handicap considered the ultimate test of stamina. It was Zahra’s first victory in the famous race, which has been held on the first Tuesday of November since 1876. Crowds were limited to 10,000 last year because of Covid, but up to 10 times that number packed into the Melbourne track for the 2022 edition, despite chilly weather and frequent showers. “I feel like crying. It’s unbelievable. What a day,” said an emotional Zahra. Gold Trip, trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, defied a huge weight disadvantage on energy-sapping soft ground to cross the line ahead of the fast-finishing Emissary and stablemate High Emocean, who both were carrying 6kg less than the winner. “He’s a horse that when you go, you don’t give him a chance to think about it,” said Zahra. “I was thinking: ‘Piss off! No one come near me!’. It was just elation when I crossed the line. What an amazing feeling.” Gold Trip had been second in last month’s Group 1 Caulfield Cup over 2,400m, one of Australia’s richest handicaps which often proves to be a good form guide for the Melbourne Cup. Breaking from a good draw in barrier 13, Zahra settled Gold Trip near the rear of the 23-runner field for the first circuit. With 1,000m to go, Tim Clark made an early kick for home aboard Sydney Cup winner Knights Order, which stretched the field as they hit the home turn. Gold Trip reeled in Knights Order, who faded on the home straight, with jockey Zahra hitting the lead at the 300m mark and kicking clear. The victory went a long way to make up for the despair Zahra felt a year ago when he missed the ride on Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant after being suspended for three months for attending a house party with four other jockeys during Victoria state’s Covid lockdown.