The Mackinnon Stakes headlines the final day of the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival, and the feature event typically ensures that the carnival ends in style. It’s one of the biggest races of the entire year, both in Victoria and more broadly the entire country, and this is everything you need to know about the race.
The history of the Mackinnon Stakes
The Mackinnon Stakes was first run in 1869, when a horse called Glencoe won what was then known simply as the Melbourne Stakes. It was known by this title for 67 years prior to being changed to the Mackinnon Stakes, a name which was bestowed upon it in honour of the former chairman of the VRC.
Up until 2017, the race was run at the beginning of the Spring Racing Carnival, and was regularly used as a lead-in event to the Race That Stops a Nation – the Melbourne Cup. The field was still often a quality one, but the VRC wanted to encourage the type of quality middle-distance runners which competed in the Cox Plate to enter the event, rather than those using it as a preparation for the Melbourne Cup, and it was for this reason that it was moved to the final day of the carnival.
The race details
The Mackinnon Stakes is a weight-for-age event run over 2,000 metres, making it similar to races such as the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Stakes. It falls in between these two similar races in terms of prize money and prestige – while it can’t compete with the Cox Plate, a $5 million event trumped virtually only by the Melbourne Cup as the biggest race of the season, it typically attracts a better field than the Caulfield Stakes, and has double the prize pool with $2 million shared among participants.
The move to the final day of the Spring Racing Carnival means the race now takes place on the first Saturday of November. This year, that will see it fall on the 6th of November, and though the start times are yet to be confirmed it typically jumps pretty late in the day – last year, the gates went back at 6pm.
Past winners of an event are often a reliable indicator to the esteem in which a race is held, and there have been some seriously talented horses take out the Mackinnon Stakes. In fact, a total of 14 winners have taken out the Melbourne Cup in the same year, with Phar Lap the most notable among them – he achieved the feat in 1930, before again winning this race the following year.
The famous Eurythmic was another horse from a similar era to take out the Mackinnon Stakes, while later in the century stars like Rising Fast, Rain Lover and Rogan Josh were also first past the post. Since the turn of the century, winners include Lonhro in 2002, So You Think in 2010, Alcopop in 2012 and last year, Arcadia Queen, who had already won the Caulfield Stakes and finished fifth in the Cox Plate earlier in the Spring Carnival.
Once the Melbourne Cup is run and won on the first Tuesday in November, many tune out of the Spring Racing Carnival. The Mackinnon Stakes, however, is a reason not to. The fourth highest paying race in Victorian racing, it attracts elite horses each and every year and often boasts one of the strongest fields of the spring, and is a suitable way to end what is one of the best racing carnivals in the world.