MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)French-bred six-year-old Gold Trip won the 162nd running of the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday ahead of Emissary and High Emocean over 3,200 meters in Australia’s most famous horse race.

One of five runners for co-trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace in the race, Gold Trip was ridden by Mark Zahra and won by a length and a half.

More than 80,000 spectators packed Flemington race track under mostly rainy and cloudy conditions. It was the first time the grandstand held unlimited fans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Favorite and English stayer Deauville Legend was fourth, and Realm of Flowers finished fifth.

From barrier 13, Zahra had Gold Trip settled among the back markers off a strong start by Serpentine. The race changed complexion about 900 meters from the finish when Tim Clark, riding Knights Order, picked up the pace.

Gold Trip claimed the lead just before the 300-meter mark, kicking clear before holding off a spirited charge from Emissary while High Emocean – also from the Maher and Eustace stable – came home late for third.

”I feel like crying. It’s unbelievable. What a day,” Zahra said.

”He’s a horse that when you go, you don’t give him a chance to think about it. I was hoping no one would come near him. It’s just elation when I crossed the line.”

Zahra said he hoped Gold Trip could ambush his rivals late in the race.

”I literally thought I’m a bit far back here but my one plan was not to be too close because I thought if I used fuel early I’d be weak late,” Zahra said. ”As they jammed up, I got to travel up and up and I thought I’m still traveling so good here.

”I waited and waited and with the horse, I’ve always said when you go you’ve got to go.”

There were 22 horses in the field after two late scratches.

The race day was hit by two groups of protesters. Animal rights activists held signs calling for an end to the ”archaic” sport of horse racing. The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses urged people to say ”Nup to the Cup”, saying 139 racehorses died on Australian tracks in the past racing year.

In an unrelated incident, footage of an unidentified person allegedly breaking into the course ahead of the race surfaced. A video posted on social media appears to show the person pouring oil on a grassy area to protest ”toxic” racing industry, but the track was not damaged.

Police also dealt with climate protesters outside the gates of the track, but there were no reports of arrests.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports