It has been an elite-level race over 2000 metres (or 10 furlongs) for a long, long time, but the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes that will be run at Flemington on Saturday is different to the same race of a couple of years ago.
Initially run on the first day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, it moved to the final day in 2016.
That first running on Day 4 didn’t stop the continuation of a trend that made the event one of the easiest to follow from a historical point of view.
Awesome Rock won the 2016 Mackinnon after finishing unplaced in the Cox Plate, a trait shared by the majority of winners since the turn of millennium. Twelve of the past 18 Mackinnon winners came through the Cox Plate, with So You Think the only one to have placed.
Unusually, none of this year’s Cox Plate field is engaged on Saturday, which forces us to look for other trends and something that has become increasingly trendy is the presence of three-year-olds in the race now worth $2 million.
Three have contested the two editions run on final day, the same number that had contested it in the previous 30 years, when it was run on the same day at the Victoria Derby (2500m).
Form Focus outlines that Casual Pass – the only three-year-old to win the race since World War II – and Ambulance in 2003, plus Pillar Of Hercules (ninth, 2007) were the only three-year-olds to run in it between 1985-2015.
The past two years suggest the presence of three-year-olds is likely to become increasingly popular now it is the week after the Derby.
Extra Brut gets the chance to become the first colt to win the Derby and Mackinnon in the same season when he lines up, joined by Mickey Blue Eyes who finished 10th in the Derby.
The Mackinnon has been a race for the older horses since Casual Pass's success with Sirmione and So You Think the only four-year-olds to score and just three five-year-olds in the same time, meaning nine of the 14 winners in that time have been six years of age or older.
It’s Somewhat, Blair House and Shillelagh are the only horses older than five engaged on Saturday.
Northern Hemisphere galloper Blair House, a six-year-old by Australian time, is the short-priced favourite for the race that has not been kind to favourite backers in recent years.
The market leader had a good patch just after the turn of the millennium, with Lonhro ($2.10), Grand Armee ($2.70) and Lad Of The Manor ($3) scoring between 2002 and 2005, but champion So You Think – who started $1.60 in 2010 – is the only punters’ pick to have won since.
In that time there have been some blowout winners, such as Sirmione ($61) and, to a lesser degree Awesome Rock ($18), but eight of the 12 winners in that time have been between $6 and $8.50.
The Verdict: As a 7YO who perfectly fits the popular SP profile of recent winners, it’s hard to go past Shillelagh, especially given she can be backed each way.
Shillelagh (NZ), picture Quentinjlang.com