The Champions Stakes is the third and final Group 1 on the card this Saturday at Flemington.  

The $3 million staying test has attracted several proven 2000m horses, including impressive Irish import West Wind blows, and the winner of the last two editions, Zaaki.  

Duais looms as a serious threat coming off an impressive run in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, while Atishu is also in the mix following her runner-up effort in the Empire Rose Stakes last week.  

Can Zaaki make it a hat-trick? Or will West Wind Blows build on two impressive performances since arriving in Australia? 

Thoughts and analysis on every runner in this year’s Champions Mile can be found below. 

1. Zaaki (10) 

Ran his usual race in the Cox Plate, caught four deep before pushing forward to land on speed in the early stages. 

Annabel Neasham’s prized stayer found the inside out of the final turn, sticking on nicely but never really a match for the likes of Romantic Warrior, Mr Brightside, and Alligator Blood.  

On the plus side, that was his first run back in six weeks, so he is open to improvement with likable form around the likes of Fangirl and Think It Over. 

From the gate, he’ll look to dictate early, but whether he has enough left in the tank to go with the international horse is the query. 

2. Huetor (11)  

Back-to-back Group 1 Doomben Cup winner Huetor is more than capable of running a big race at a nice price. 

The Snowden-trained seven-year-old has the likable Without A Fight form from the Brisbane Winter Carnival, and while he’s failed to run a place, he has been working up nicely to his preferred distance in both runs back. 

He’s drawn a tough assignment in barrier 11, but the son of Hong Kong Group 1 winner Archipenko has won three times from six starts over this trip.  

Proven third-up, don’t rule out a place.  

3. Young Werther (6) 

Young Werther made it two wins on the trot when resuming a winner at The Valley in September, finding excuses a month later in the Hill Stakes at Rosehill where he was always wide from a tricky gate.  

Like others, he boasts a decent third-up record with some of his best performances coming here at Flemington.  

He has placed in three starts at Group 1 level, but it’s been nearly a year since he’s taken on a race of this magnitude.  

4. West Wind Blows (2)  

Form around the last two Melbourne Cup winners really stacks up nicely for this Irish import.  

The son of Teofilo stuck to the task nicely on debut in the Turnbull Stakes, finding the centre of the straight to finish runner-up to Gold Trip over the same trip.  

He handled the rise to 2400m in his stride in the Caulfield Cup, looking the winner over the final furlong before Without A Fight had something to say.  

The low gate is to his advantage, not to mention his excellent record of three wins and four placings over the distance.  

We know he’ll stay the trip, so look for him to roll forward and land just off the speed behind Zaaki.  

5. Zeyrek (7) 

Zeyrek looks out of his depth in a race of this class. 

He had plenty go against him in Craven Plate two weeks ago at Randwick, copping interference early and just hanging on in a ding-dong battle all the way down the straight.  

His effort the start prior in the King Charles left a lot to be desired though, while he was also four lengths off Huetor in the Doomben Cup. 

6. Pinstriped (9) 

A win looks unlikely, but Pinstriped could run a much-improved race on his effort in the Cox Plate two weeks ago. 

He was a little keen in the run which ultimately cost him from the wide gate, given no chance down the straight finishing second last. 

The fact he beat home subsequent Toorak Handicap winner Attrition in the Feehan Stakes three back reads well, so don’t discount a top five finish.  

7. Buckaroo (8) 

British entire Buckaroo has placed twice from three starts over 2000m during his short career. 

He was second over this trip two back in a Stakes race at Royal Ascot, also finishing runner-up in a Group 3 at Leopardstown as a four-year-old behind Irish Derby runner-up Piz Badile.  

His debut effort in the King Charles was hardly an eye-catcher, but he did make up some ground after giving away a start.  

I’d prefer to watch him go around again, but a much-improved effort third-up wouldn’t surprise. 

8. Montefilia (1)  

Finally back in the winner’s circle two back at Rosehill, storming into the picture late to claim the Hill Stakes after blowing the start. 

The Caulfield Cup appeared a bit beyond her when beaten 10 lengths a few weeks ago, but she could sneak into the money given her record over this trip.  

9. Duais (3)  

Continues to race well without winning.  

She was enormous two back in the Might And Power getting back to near last before working home along the rail to finish three lengths third to Alligator Blood.  

Edward Cummings’ mare proved that was no fluke running within 1.5 lengths of Romantic Warrior in the Cox Plate, tracking Alligator Blood out of the turn where she stuck on well for fourth.  

If she had a clearer run in transit maybe she would have won that day, but given her record over 2000m, this shapes as a nice consolation prize with little to fault about her chances.  

10. Atishu (5)  

Atishu goes around on the quick backup, a similar setup that saw her win the Matriarch last year only a week earlier.  

She’s mixed her form a little this prep, but did run a huge race last week in the Empire Rose for second behind Pride Of Jenni.  

Chris Waller’s mare lost no admirers when failing to reel in the runaway leader, while this step up in trip also looks ideal after crossing the line with a bit left in the tank.  

Two wins over the trip stand out, and although this is a little harder, she should give this a good shake.  

11. Prowess (4)  

Prowess can add to what has already been a pretty big spring for the Kiwis.

The daughter of Proisir has won two of her three starts since arriving, taking home the Crystal Mile at The Valley two weeks ago where she simply kept finding in the run home.  

Given she’s only third-up, the best might be yet to come for the dual Group 1 winner under Mark Zahra – especially if there’s any rain forecast.