VRC announces changes to Mackinnon and Emirates Stakes' races

The Victoria Racing Club, in conjunction with Racing Victoria, on Monday announced significant changes to the Melbourne Cup Carnival racing program, headlined by the swapping of the Longines Mackinnon Stakes and Emirates Stakes and a million dollar prizemoney boost.

The enhancements are set to increase the quality of both Group 1s, and represent one of the biggest changes to the traditional four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival in more than a century.

The Emirates Stakes (registered as the Cantala Stakes) becomes the Longines Mile (1600m Quality Handicap) and comes forward a week to the Melbourne Cup Carnival’s opening AAMI Victoria Derby Day, maintaining its A$1 million (US$725,000) prizemoney.

The 2000m weight-for-age Mackinnon Stakes will be renamed the Emirates Stakes and be run a week later on the Carnival’s final day, with prizemoney to double to A$2m (US$1.5m). The final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival will remain known as Emirates Stakes Day.

VRC Chief Executive Simon Love said the fact that the Mackinnon Stakes was no longer a key Emirates Melbourne Cup lead-in inspired the change.

“To be known as the Emirates Stakes, the race will be more attractive for top tier local and international weight-for-age horses. Now spaced an ideal two weeks apart, the Cox Plate and new Emirates Stakes offer a lucrative combined A$5m (U$3.75m) in prizemoney that will no doubt promote increased overseas participation across the spring,” Mr Love said.

“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.”

Racing Victoria Chief Executive Bernard Saundry welcomed the VRC’s innovation and said it would further enhance the appeal of the entire Spring Racing Carnival, both locally and abroad.

“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,” Mr 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.”

The four days of the Melbourne Cup Carnival are the four most attended anywhere in Australia, with the event providing an economic benefit to Victoria of almost $400 million each year.

Race changes announced for Flemington's Melbourne Cup Carnival, picture ThoroughbredNEWS