The Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes is a Group 1 weight-for-age race for non-maiden horses aged three years and above that is run over 2000 metres at Flemington Racecourse on the last day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The race currently offers $2 million in prizemoney and in 2020, winner Arcadia Queen took $1.2 million for winning the race.
History of the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes
This race is rife with history.
It was first run in 1869 and over the course of that time, it has been renamed multiple times. It has been consistent in distance, something that is not always common in Australian Thoroughbred racing. It was listed as 1 ¼ miles from 1869 until metrification caught up with it in 1972 and the trip was changed to 2000 metres, so the race did get shorter by just under 12 metres. There was one exception in 1937. The VRC had moved the race to earlier in the spring racing season and shortened it to 1600 metres. That 1600-metre race eventually became known as the Turnbull Stakes, although from 1937 -1947, the race now known as the Turnbull Stakes used the name Melbourne Stakes.
Confused yet? You are not alone.
The Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes was always considered a Principal race until the Group classification system came into use and thereafter, it has been a Group 1 race.
The Victorian Racing Club runs the race and the VRC have moved it around the racing calendar to some extent.
When it was earlier in the spring, many owners and trainers were using the race for Melbourne Cup prep. The VRC and Racing Victoria, by moving the race to the Saturday after the Melbourne Cup, felt that it would attract good horses interested in the 2000-metre distance as an end in itself rather than preparation for the Cup. It is also mentioned that the VRC was trying to attract horses that had run in the Cox Plate.
As for the name of the race, no one could expect most races to carry the same name for perpetuity. Sponsorship reasons alone support this idea and sponsors who pay for the rights should have their names as part of the race’s name.
This race, which has been going as the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes since 2018, was originally called the Melbourne Stakes when it debuted in 1869 until 1936. From 1937 – 1947, the Melbourne Stakes was
It was called the LKS Mackinnon Stakes beginning in 1937, two years subsequent to the death of Lauchlan Kenneth Scobie MacKinnon. He was a former chairman of the VRC. The name persisted until 1987.
True, it would have been nice had they seen fit to honour MacKinnon while he was still alive, but they never should have removed LKS from the name. Those are some cool sounding initials and we would have loved to have those initials and have them monogrammed on a French cuff shirt. Since those are not our initials and we have never owned a French cuff shirt, we will have to be content with the PGR initials we had tattooed on our arm.
Other names that have been used for the race are Occidental Mackinnon Stakes (1987 – 1989), LKS Mackinnon Stakes, again (1990), Louis Vuitton Mackinnon Stakes (1991 – 2000), Thrifty Mackinnon Stakes (2001 – 2004, LKS, as a thrifty Scot, would have liked this one), Motorola Mackinnon Stakes (2005 – 2006), L’Oreal Paris Mackinnon Stakes (2007), Crown Mackinnon Stakes (2008), LKS Mackinnon Stakes (2009), Longines Mackinnon Stakes (2010 – 2015), Emirates Stakes (2016 – 2017) and Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes (2018 and forward).
We feel compelled to mention that the race namesake would have formatted his last name as MacKinnon, but we always see the race written about using a lower case “k”.
Sponsorship name changes are common and a race as old as this one has had many different sponsors. Credit to the VRC for keeping Mackinnon throughout, with the exception of those two years where they were jiggering with the calendar and landed on calling the race the Emirates Stakes.
Race Venue for the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes
This prominent Group 1 race has always been run at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. For the 2000-metre trip, the horses start near the head of the straight on the south side that runs along the Maribyrnong River. They negotiate the wide, sweeping turn on the east and finish in front of the stands.
Further information about Australia’s most famous racecourse can be found here.
Racing History of the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes
This race has been run and won by some of the most legendary gallopers to set hoof on Australian turf.
Any one of those legends would supply material for an entire article and in some instances, an entire book.
There have been many repeat winners as is common for races where there is good prizemoney and weight-for-age conditions and there have been a handful that won the Mackinnon Stakes when it was earlier in the spring and then went on to win the Melbourne Cup in the same year.
Those horses that filled a Mckinnon Stakes – Melbourne Cup double were all significant. The list is, Malua (1884), Carbine (1890), Phar Lap (1930), Peter Pan, twice (1932 and 1934), The Trump (1937), Comic Court (1950), Delta (1951), Dalray (1952), Rising Fast (1954), Rain Lover (1968), At Talaq (1986), Empire Rose (1988), Let’s Elope (1991) and Rogan Josh (1999) - More Champions Here.
Unless the VRC changes the calendar slot for the race at some point, there is little chance of any additional Mackinnon Stakes – Melbourne Cup doubles.
Here is a closer look at some of those winners, along with links to the PGR pages that examine some of the famous winners in more detail.
Straight from the barrier, the Mackinnon Stakes supplied significant winners. Glencoe (1869), Tim Whiffler (1870) and Warrior (1871) open the list.
Glencoe had won the Melbourne Cup in the previous year of 1868. He won seven other Principal races as well, races that would be declared Group 1 level a 100 years later.
When Tim Whiffler won in 1870, came near the end of his career, although he won a couple of good races in 1871. He won the Melbourne Cup in 1867, a year that had two horses in the field named Tim Whiffler.
No, it was not the ring-in to end all ring-ins. The winning Tim Whiffler was differentiated by adding Sydney at the end of his name, while the losing Tim Whiffler was identified with Melbourne at the end of his name.
Warrior was a Melbourne Cup winner in 1869 and his Mackinnon Stakes win in 1871 came as an eight-year-old. He won the Australian Cup in 1873 as a ten-year-old. Automatic entry into the PGR Hall of Fame. Extra fame for breaking his shoulder in a race in NSW that resulted in his being put down.
The first multiple winner of the race was Dagworth in 1873 and 1874. What has reached us across the intervening years was that Dagworth made 40 starts for 16 wins and 11 placings, so he had to have been a good one.
Chester was a two-time winner of the race with an intervening year. His victories were in 1878 and 1880. Chester won a Melbourne Cup in 1877. His other race with multiple wins was the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1878 and 1879. He was from the era when staying races held some sway and one of his wins came at 4800 metres. His record was impressive-29 jumps, 19 wins and 7 placings, leaving him unplaced in just one race.
We have to skip ahead to 1884, where we encounter Malua.
Along with the double in this race and the Melbourne Cup, Malua won seven other important races. Add one more to his total for winning the Grand National Hurdle in 1889 over a 5200-metre trip.
The winner in 1890 was the legendary Carbine. He made 43 starts for 33 wins and 9 placings. Like Chester, there was only one race where Carbine failed to finish in the top three. He won two Sydney Cups and three AJC Plates, so when this horse lined up for a 2000-metre race, it was better for the others to stay in their stalls.
There was a two-time winner in 1897 and 1898’s Battalion. He was an older horse when he won the Mackinnon, foaled in 1889 and his win in 1898 was one of his final victories, although he did win three other staying races that same year in NSW and Victoria.
Wakeful was the first three-time winner from 1901 – 1903. She was one of the first inductees into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. She won two Sydney Cups. She ran second in the 1903 Melbourne Cup carrying another horse (actually 64 kg – 13 pounds over weight-for-age) and she sacrificed 22kg to the winner.
The 1907 winner was Poseidon. He won the Melbourne Cup in 1906 and the Caulfield Cup in 1906 and 1907. He was the first to fill the Caulfield – Melbourne Cup double. A key to Poseidon’s appeal was his versatility – he won 1000-metre sprints and 4800-metre staying races.
Fast forward to 1920 and 1921 and the name of Eurythmic makes the list of Mackinnon winners. He jumped 47 times and produced 31 wins and 10 placings. He owned the Memsie Stakes and the Caulfield Stakes three years running, 1920 – 1922.
The next legend on the list is Gloaming, winner in 1924.
His 19 consecutive wins, many in major races, is shared with Black Caviar and Winx.
Four years later, 1928, it was Gothic crossing the line first.
He was quite good, other than that he suffers from comparison to some of the earlier winners and he will suffer more from comparison to some of the next winners.
That is because the list includes Phar Lap (1930, 1931), Peter Pan (1932, 1934) and Rogilla (1933).
We have written copiously about those first two, so we will simply refer you to the PGR page mentioned earlier.
As for Rogilla, 70 jumps, so automatic entry into the PGR Hall of Fame. Some of his other wins were the 1932 Caulfield Cup, the 1933 Sydney Cup and Cox Plate and a couple of major races in 1935. He has the distinction of having been dead-heated five times.
As for the years when the Mackinnon was the Turnbull Stakes (1937 – 1947), that list includes Ajax (1938, 1940) and Bernborough (1946).
The list only grows from here.
In 1940 and 1941, the winner was Beau Vite.
He won two Cox Plates (1940 and 1941) and numerous other major races, some on multiple occasions.
A second three-time winner was Tranquil Star.
Tranquil Star made 111 starts. When she wasn’t racing, she was giving pony rides to the kiddies at the carnival. Her Mackinnon wins were in 1942, 1944 and 1945. She found time to win the Cox Plate in 1942 and 1944 with a 1942 Caulfield Cup thrown in for good measure.
When Tranquil Star won that Caulfield Cup, she beat three horses that had won a Melbourne Cup.
More significant winners kept coming.
It was Flight in 1946, followed by Comic Court (1949 and 1950), Delta (1951), Hydrogen (1953) and Rising Fast (1954, 1955).
Tulloch was the winner in 1960, followed by Sky High in 1961.
The list of legends to win the Mackinnon continues with 1966’s Tobin Bronze.
Just two years later, it was Rain Lover and 194 gave us the immortal Leilani.
The years of 1976 – 1978 supplied important winners Gold And Black, Silver Lad and Family Of Man.
At Talaq (1986) and Empire Rose (1988) are two more that carried the tradition of great horses winning the race. In between those two was Rubiton (1987). Good Gracious!
Then we had Horlicks (1989), Better Loosen Up (1990), Let’s Elope (1991), Veandercross (1992) and The Phantom (1993).
All Our Mob was the 1996 winner that made 74 starts and won over $2.5 million, with other major wins in the Stradbroke Handicap, the Newmarket Handicap and the All-Aged Stakes.
Rogan Josh (1999) completes the list of winners up to the close of the 20th century.
In the modern era, we have had Lonhro (2002), Grand Armee (2004), Desert War (2006), Simione (2007), So You Think (2010), Gailo Chop (2015 and Tosen Stardom (2017).
In the 21st century, only Casual Pass (2003) won as a three-year-old. A surprising number of winners were seven-years-old. Many were aged five or six years and 2012 winner Alcopop was eight when he won the Mackinnon in his next-to-last race before his swan song, a third at Sha Tin in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup.
Our final winner is 2020’s Arcadia Queen, the pride of WA trainers Grant and Alana Williams. She is now retired after 16 jumps for eight wins and four placings and almost $4 million in her prizemoney account. Her connections took her away from the Williamses and gave her to Chris Waller, who could only coax a Group 2 win from her. Waller returned her to the Williamses and the Mackinnon was her last win, although she threw a scare into Probabeel in the 2021 Group 1 Futurity Stakes.
To date, no race we have examined, and that includes the Melbourne Cup, the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup, has supplied as many top echelon winners as has the Mackinnon Stakes.
We think this will continue, although we often question the decisions of the VRC when it comes to certain aspects of racing in Victoria.
When the Mackinnon Stakes is examined in detail, even some of the horses that did not win were top horses in other races and multiple winners of major races in their own right.
|Year||Emirates Stakes Winners|
|2018||Trap For Fools|
|2010||So You Think|
|2005||Lad Of The Manor|
|2001||La Bella Dama|
|1996||All Our Mob|
|1990||Better Loosen Up|
|1978||Family Of Man|
|1977||Sir Silver Lad|
|1976||Gold And Black|
|1910||Son Of The Marsh|
|1888||The Australian Peer|