The Victoria Racing Club (VRC) has announced some major changes to this year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival with the switching of the Mackinnon Stakes and Emirates Stakes.
Previously held on Victoria Derby Day on the Saturday prior to the iconic Melbourne Cup (the first Tuesday of November), the Mackinnon Stakes was a $1 million Group 1 weight-for-age contested over 2000m.
It will now be known as the new Emirates Stakes, closing the Melbourne Cup Carnival on the first Saturday in November and offering an increased $2 million in prize money.
What was the Emirates Stakes, a Group 1 mile handicap at Flemington Racecourse registered as the Cantala Stakes, has been renamed as the Longines Mile.
It comes forward to Victoria Derby Day, which kicks off the four-meeting Flemington Carnival each spring.
The swap was made with the ambition of attracting an even higher level of race horses to this year’s festival and the doubling of the new Emirates Stakes (formerly Mackinnon Stakes) prize money from last season will hopefully draw the world’s best weight-for-age stars.
“To be known as the Emirates Stakes, the race will be more attractive for top tier local and international weight-for-age horses,” VRC chief executive Simon Love said on Monday.
“Now spaced an ideal two weeks apart, the Cox Plate and new Emirates Stakes offer a lucrative combined AUD$5m in prizemoney that will no doubt promote increased overseas participation across the spring.
“We don’t make changes lightly, with the Melbourne Cup Carnival’s traditional four-day format serving it well for over a century, in which time it has established itself as arguably the world’s most successful racing event.
“These changes balance innovation with tradition to improve the Carnival’s already outstanding racing product into the future.
“The VRC proposed these changes following our annual review, and they have now been approved by the Australian and Asian Pattern Committees, and agreed to by our loyal partners in Emirates and Longines for an introduction this spring.
“In making this announcement, we would like to acknowledge Racing Victoria for its support in achieving this outcome.”
The updated program and race amendments will also be used to try and keep graduates of Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley in late October, down under targeting the updated Emirates Stakes.
“We are pleased to be able to support the VRC’s ambition to enhance the coveted Melbourne Cup Carnival and deliver what will be a fantastic finale to Australian racing’s biggest week,” Racing Victoria chief executive Bernard Saundry said.
“Packaged with the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, we have a great opportunity to attract more high-quality international weight-for-age horses to compete in Victoria, whilst further encouraging the connections of our home-grown stars to showcase them on multiple occasions throughout our Spring Racing Carnival.”
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