VRC Champions Stakes (Mackinnon Stakes) 2023

The Mackinnon Stakes was renamed as the VRC Champions Stakes in 2023 and makes a nice target for Cox Plate graduates. 

Previously known as the Emirates Stakes and the Mackinnon Stakes, the Group 1 VRC Champions Stakes is now a $3 million feature held on the final day of the four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival.

2021 Mackinnon Stakes Winner Zaaki

2021 Mackinnon Stakes winner Zaaki. Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos.

In a bid to attract graduates of the Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) from late October at Moonee Valley Racecourse, the updated event takes place over 2000m under weight-for-age conditions on the Saturday after the Melbourne Cup runs on the first Tuesday of November.

Zaaki (4th in 2022) for his second victory was the last Cox Plate graduate to back-up and win the Mackinnon Stakes, which is now known as the VRC Champions Stakes.

Previously worth $1 million in prize money, in 2016 the race offered a lucrative $2 million in total stakes before stakes were boosted again ahead of the 2022 event to $3 million.

The VRC Champions Stakes now attracts the top tier of both local and international WFA stars. The race formerly known as the Mackinnon Stakes is one of three Group 1 races on the card along with the $3 million Champions Sprint (1200m) – formerly the VRC Sprint Classic – and the $3 million Champions Mile (1600m) – formerly the Cantala Stakes held on Derby Day.

The Group 3 VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) is the other Group status feature on the card.

This season the 2023 Mackinnon Stakes ran on Saturday November 11, 2023 as the VRC Champions Stakes and was won in an explosive upset by the Chris Waller-trained mare Atishu ($8.50) who was ridden to victory by James McDonald.

2023 Champions Stakes (Mackinnon Stakes) Results

The official Mackinnon Stakes 2023 Results & Finishing Order will be known in 2023 as the VRC Champions Stakes results and available below once the race is run and won on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival on Saturday November 11, 2023.

2023 Champions Stakes winner Atishu

2023 Champions Stakes winner Atishu was excellent on the quick back-up winning the feature by nearly two lengths. Photo: Steve Hart.

  • 1st: #10 Atishu
  • 2nd: #9 Duais
  • 3rd: #3 Young Werther

The Chris Waller-trained Atishu ($8.50) improved on her lead-up second in the Empire Rose Stakes behind subsequent Champions Mile winner Pride Of Dubai, relishing the quick back-up and extra distance to power home late over a quality field to score an upset win in the 2023 Champions Stakes results.

2023 VRC Champions Stakes Odds

The season’s best VRC Champions Stakes 2023 odds on the race previously known as the Mackinnon Stakes and Melbourne Cup Carnival betting market links to the weight-for-age clash will be available the week of the race so stay tuned for the top prices on this year’s runners.

Early market betting odds on the 2024 VRC Champions Stakes will be displayed below once available. Odds are subject to fluctuation. For current odds on all of our live markets, please visit ladbrokes.com.au.

VRC Champions Stakes Race Info

  • Date: Saturday November 11, 2023
  • Former Race Name: Mackinnon Stakes
  • Track: Flemington Racecourse
  • Distance: 2000m
  • Conditions: Weight-for-age
  • Status: Group 1
  • Prize Money: $3 million
  • First Run: 1869

VRC Champions Stakes Betting

Mackinnon Stakes odds – known in 2023 as the VRC Champions Stakes odds – are dominated by proven weight-for-age performers with previous experience in Melbourne during the spring.

A race like the Cox Plate run under the same conditions makes the ideal lead-up and the best performers in that Moonee Valley race sit highly up the VRC Champions Stakes / Mackinnon Stakes betting markets. As of 2016 the Cox Plate – Mackinnon Stakes (VRC Champions Stakes) is a popular betting double for punters with the races spaced an ideal two weeks apart.

In 2016 the first new-look edition of the Mackinnon Stakes was won in an upset with the winner Awesome Rock improving on a lead-up Cox Plate fifth to salute at Mackinnon Stakes odds of $19. The single-figure fancies were back in winning form the following year with the victory of Tosen Stardom ($6.50) in 2017. In 2018 there was a notable upset with the winner Trap For Fools winning at Mackinnon Stakes odds of $26!

The 2019 Mackinnon Stakes winner was Irish raider Magic Wand ($4.80) who ran fourth in the Cox Plate and 10th in the Melbourne Cup.

In 2020 Cox Plate fifth place-getter Arcadia Queen ($2.45) backed-up to win for the punters, before Zaaki ($2.25F) atoned for his Cox Plate scratching to win the 2021 Mackinnon Stakes and become the latest favourite to win the event, as well as the last before the race was renamed the VRC Champions Stakes in 2022.

Zaaki returned off a Cox Plate fourth in 2022 to salute in his second Mackinnon Stakes / Champions Stakes at $8 odds.

VRC Champions Stakes (Mackinnon Stakes) Tips

Mackinnon Stakes tips on the race now known as the VRC Champions Stakes include looking for horses with winning form up to 2000m, experience in Melbourne during the spring carnival and Cox Plate graduates that ran well in the lead-up weight-for-age showdown.

International gallopers have been making more of an impact in the Mackinnon Stakes from 2016 onwards, so another good tip is to look at the in-form raiders especially those that contested the Cox Plate.

Magic Wand (2019) was the latest international to dominate the race saluting on a quick back-up out of the Melbourne Cup for Ireland.

2023 VRC Champions Stakes Tips

Our Ladbrokes’ insider VRC Champions Stakes 2023 tips and Group 1 Flemington exotic betting selections on the former Mackinnon Stakes race will be detailed below the week of the race so stay tuned for the end-of-spring stars to back and sack in the $3 million showdown.

  • To Win: #4 West Wind Blows ($2.50) – BET NOW

A stellar edition of the VRC Champions Stakes and have the Simon & Ed Crisford-trained international West Wind Blows on top. A former stablemate to this year’s Caulfield Cup – Melbourne Cup champion Without A Fight, this UK-based Teofilo five-year-old is third-up down under for the spring and well acclimatised now. He has an excellent record over the distance (7:3-2-2) and comes off back-to-back Group 1 seconds behind some very good horses in Australia. Fresh was second to last year’s Melbourne Cup champ Gold Trip in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at this track and distance. Rose to 2400m and was narrowly beaten by Without A Fight in the Caulfield Cup. That form was franked on Tuesday with Without A Fight blasting his rivals away with a stellar Melbourne Cup win by over two lengths. Think West Wind Blows can do the same back to 2000m and fit now. Jamie Spencer stays on, barrier two, just needs to prove he is a genuine WFA horse with the 59kg.

VRC Champions Stakes (Mackinnon Stakes) Field

The new-look Mackinnon Stakes field – now known as the VRC Champions Stakes field as of 2022 – attracts the highest-rated weight-for-age runners from around the globe looking for a late Group 1 win during the annual Melbourne Cup Carnival in Victoria. Many horses in the field are graduates of Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, the Cox Plate, held over a very similar distance a couple of weeks earlier at Moonee Valley.

Mares in the race field may also be on the short turnaround off a run in the previous Saturday’s Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) on Derby Day. In 2019 the Empire Rose Stakes winner Melody Belle jumped favourite in the Mackinnon Stakes field and finished a brave second to the Irish-trained winner Magic Wand.

Melody Belle also returned for the 2020 Mackinnon Stakes and ran a brave third to fellow mare Arcadia Queen.

In 2023 the Champions Stakes winner was Atishu on the quick back-up off a second in the Empire Rose Stakes behind Pride Of Jenni who further franked the form winning the Champions Mile earlier at the meeting.

VRC Champions Stakes nominations are taken on the Monday prior to the race running on the first Saturday of November, with the final field and barrier draw released on the Wednesday.

2023 VRC Champions Stakes Field

The official VRC Champions Stakes 2023 field and barriers are available on the Wednesday before race day, one day after the coveted Melbourne Cup is run and won, and will be provided in full once released.

The 2023 VRC Champions Stakes final field features a cracking line-up of spring gallopers including UK raider West Wind Blows coming off a Caulfield Cup second behind subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Without A Fight, dual defending champion Zaaki after his third success as a nine-year-old now, and classy Group 1 winning Kiwi mare Prowess coming off a win in the Group 2 Crystal Mile at The Valley.

2023 VRC Champions Stakes Nominations

The early VRC Champions Stakes nominations close the Monday of race week – a day before Melbourne Cup Day – and will be published below once confirmed.

The 2023 Champions Stakes nominations feature 21 hopefuls led in pre-field markets by the likes of Simon & Ed Crisford’s Caulfield Cup runner-up West Wind Blows, Edward Cummings’ multiple Group 1 winning mare Duais, evergreen nine-year-old Zaaki who is the dual defending champion, and star miler Mr Brightside coming off a devastatingly close Cox Plate second.

Last 10 Horse Sex Age Trainer Ballot Weight True Weight Penalty Hcp Rating
1 5211×11122 MR BRIGHTSIDE (NZ) G 6 Ben, Will & JD Hayes 1 59kg 118
2 x140x42113 ALLIGATOR BLOOD G 7 Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott 2 59kg 118
3 x3227x1317 FANGIRL M 5 Chris Waller 3 57kg 117
4 41x217x326 ZAAKI (GB) G 9 Annabel Neasham 4 59kg 116
5 5229×86310 MONTEFILIA M 6 Chris Waller 5 57kg 112
6 0x43x79334 DUAIS M 6 Edward Cummings 6 57kg 112
7 3311111×21 PROWESS (NZ) M 4 Roger James & Robert Wellwood 7 56.5kg 110
8 13×3123222 WEST WIND BLOWS (IRE) G 5 Simon & Ed Crisford 8 59kg 110
9 x216Px5202 ATISHU (NZ) M 6 Chris Waller 9 57kg 110
10 0653216×06 HUETOR (FR) G 7 Peter & Paul Snowden 10 59kg 110
11 241111×739 VICTORIA ROAD (IRE) H 4 Ciaron Maher & David Eustace 11 57.5kg 109
12 3950×61146 MUSTANG VALLEY (NZ) M 5 Andrew Forsman 12 57kg 108
13 1735×45401 ZEYREK (FR) G 7 Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes 13 59kg 108
14 x426256x94 NUMERIAN (IRE) G 8 Annabel Neasham 14 59kg 108
15 3x907x0090 EL BODEGON (IRE) G 5 Chris Waller 15 59kg 107
16 34113×2150 PINSTRIPED G 5 Enver Jusufovic 16 59kg 107
17 216x143x27 BUCKAROO (GB) H 5 Joseph O’Brien 17 59kg 107
18 746×403116 YOUNG WERTHER (NZ) G 6 Danny O’Brien 18 59kg 106
19 26844×4078 HINGED M 5 Chris Waller 19 57kg 105
20 362598×735 BANKERS CHOICE (NZ) G 6 Michael Moroney 20 59kg 103
21 05420×8070 HEZASHOCKA (NZ) G 6 Mick Price & Michael Kent (Jnr) 21 59kg 100

Table Credit: Racing Australia.

VRC Champions Stakes (Mackinnon Stakes) Form Guide

The Mackinnon Stakes form guide – known in 2023 as the VRC Champions Stakes form guide – features all the key information for punters including the saddlecloth numbers, barriers, jockeys, trainers and lead-up runs of all the horses in the field.

The race, prior to 2016, was considered a key lead-up to the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the first Tuesday of November and provided recent winners of the ‘race that stops a nation’ including Rogan Josh (1999) who completed the double.

In 2019 Magic Wand improved on her 10th in the Melbourne Cup just four days earlier to win the then-Mackinnon Stakes on the last day of the carnival.

Now run after the Melbourne Cup, the Mackinnon Stakes (currently known as the VRC Champions Stakes) is likely to be the last run of the horses’ spring campaigns and good lead-up races to look at the form of include the Turnbull Stakes, Caulfield Stakes and of course the Cox Plate.

In 2020 Arcadia Queen completed the Caulfield Stakes – Mackinnon Stakes double.

VRC Champions Stakes / Mackinnon Stakes Form Facts

  • The Cox Plate has been the key lead-up race into the race producing 10 of the 14 winners between 2008 – 2023 most recently Zaaki (4th in 2022).
  • Only one winner in over 30 years came off a Sydney lead-up with Desert War (Epsom Handicap 2nd, 2006).
  • So You Think (2010), Arcadia Queen (2020) and Zaaki (2021) are the only favourites to salute for the punters since 2005.

2023 VRC Champions Stakes Form Guide

A link to our comprehensive VRC Champions Stakes 2023 Form Guide will be provided for punters below the week of the race.

Mackinnon Stakes History & Results

The old Emirates Stakes was a mile handicap race run at Flemington Racecourse on the fourth and final meeting of the Melbourne Cup Carnival on the first Saturday in November.

From 2016 onwards, the race still takes place as the namesake event of Mackinnon Stakes Day – known as VRC Champions Stakes Day in 2023 – or ‘Family Day’ at Victoria’s premier race track on this date, but the conditions and prize money differ. In 2016 the 1600m handicap previously known as the Emirates Stakes moved to Victoria Derby Day, the opening Melbourne Cup Carnival meeting the Saturday prior to Emirates Stakes Day, and was known as the Kennedy Mile before changing in 2022 to the Champions Mile and moving back to the Saturday after the Melbourne Cup.

VRC Champions Stakes / Mackinnon Stakes results up until 2016 are those of the race formerly known as the Emirates Stakes which are listed below.

Notable recent Mackinnon Stakes winners include the latest dual champion Zaaki (2021-22), Arcadia Queen (2020), Magic Wand (2019), Galio Chop (2015), So You Think (2010), Desert War (2006), Grand Armee (2004), and Lonhro (2002).

Casual Pass (2003) is the latest three-year-old Mackinnon Stakes winner.

Atishu (2023) is the last Mackinnon Stakes winning mare.

From 2022 the Mackinnon Stakes winners are officially registered as the VRC Champions Stakes winners.

Past Emirates / Mackinnon / VRC Champions Stakes Winners

Recent Champions Stakes winners and place-getters dating back to the year 2000 are detailed in the below table.

Year Winner 2nd 3rd Time
2023 Atishu Duais Young Werther 2:02.01
2022 Zaaki Mo’unga Hezashocka 2:02.0
2021 Zaaki Cascadian Mo’unga 2:02.9
2020 Arcadia Queen Fifty Stars Melody Belle 2:03.5
2019 Magic Wand Melody Belle Hartnell 2:01.8
2018 Trap For Fools Latrobe Extra Brut 2:02.3
2017 Tosen Stardom Happy Clapper It’s Somewhat 2:01.2
2016 Awesome Rock Hauraki Seaburge 2:02.4
2015 Gailo Chop Rising Romance Contributer 2:03.5
2014 Happy Trails He’s Your Man Farraaj 2:02.2
2013 Side Glance Dear Demi Moriarty 2:03.5
2012 Alcopop Glass Harmonium Ocean Park 2:01.2
2011 Glass Harmonium Mourayan Rekindled Interest 2:02.7
2010 So You Think Descarado Ginga Dude 2:04.9
2009 Scenic Shot Miss Maren Viewed 2:03.4
2008 Thesio Barbaricus Sirmione 2:03.8
2007 Sirmione Princess Coup Zipping 2:02.3
2006 Desert War Growl Aqua dAmore 2:02.3
2005 Lad of The Manor Our Smoking Joe Lachlan River 2:01.7
2004 Grand Armee Confectioner Vouvray 2:00.9
2003 Casual Pass Pentastic Fields of Omagh 2:05.8
2002 Lonhro Royal Code Distinctly Secret 2:02.6
2001 La Bella Dama Hill of Grace Emission 2:01.5
2000 Oliver Twist Camarena Slavonic 2:05.4