The Matriarch Stakes is a Group 2 race run at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne each year. The race currently occupies a racing calendar slot on the final day of the VRC Spring Carnival.
The race is restricted to mares aged four years and above and the race covers 2000 metres under set weights plus penalties. All the horses must have won at least one race to gain admittance.
The 2020 prizemoney was $300,000 and $180,000 went to winning mare Affair To Remember. A nice replay of that race can be seen here:
History of the Matriarch Stakes
The Matriarch Stakes has a prime spot on the racing calendar, but it is a newer race that was first run in 1993. The big attractions, the marquee races of the meeting, are the Group 1 Emirates Stakes and the VRC Sprint Classic.
The top mares will not be found here. The Flemington Spring Carnival is concluding and all the better types have been chasing similar races that offer more prizemoney. There are only three Group 1 and five Group 2 races remaining in the calendar year. The Group 1s are in Western Australia, as are two of the Group 2s. Caulfield and Randwick each offer one more Group 2 race for the year, so the Matriarch Stakes is to us the type of race that almost represents a consolation prize.
In 2020, the Matriarch Stakes was the seventh race of the meeting and was sandwiched right between the Group 1 VRC Darley Sprint Classic and the Group 1 Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes. There may have been some diehard punters watching and the honchos in the members’ may have watched while being tended to by Flemington’s excellent staff, but we ordinary sorts would have looked on the Matriarch Stakes as about an hour-and-a-half from the end of the Darley to the beginning of the Mackinnon that we could be spending in the pub.
With the Mackinnon Stakes immediately after the Matriarch Stakes, you simply have another 2000-metre race that is going to attract the top horses, be they mare, gelding or stallion. The key differences are that the Matriarch is run at set weights plus penalties and the Mackinnon offers almost seven times the prizemoney as the Matriarch.
Still, it is not easy to win any Group 2 race. This one may be a bit easier, but we are not the ones schlepping jockeys for 2000 metres around Flemington turf.
The age, gender and previous win restrictions might tend to make you think that the VRC would have a hard time filling the field, but you would be wrong, at least in recent times, to think this.
The 2020 Matriarch Stakes had 14 gallopers, while 2019 and 2018 both had fields of 15.
It turns out that there are a lot of four-year-old and older mares that have won at least something, but are not quite good enough to participate in the Mackinnon Stakes over the same distance on the same day.
Another fact that supports the field strength of the Mackinnon Stakes, again referring to the last three races, is that from the number of runners, there are not many that are completely hopeless in the eyes of bettors.
The 2020 race had only one that jumped above $100 and that horse, Quilate, jumped for $151 and actually beat for others priced much shorter. Other than Quilate, only two jumped above $30 and seven of the racers were priced at $10 or lower. The favourite, Miss Siska, left the barrier at $6, though, so this race offers some dividends and we were wrong to leave the betting ring and hit the boozer.
As for other historical aspects of the Matriarch Stakes, we find that it has been run since 1993, but for the first two years, it was simple Mares Handicap. That first year had something along the lines of $40 in prizemoney, with first place runner Gilded Splendor receiving $13,500 for her efforts.
The race moved to Listed status in 1995. It was lifted to Group 3 for 2001, and then to Group 2 beginning in 2005.
The race has been called the Matriarch Stakes since its inception, but there were three years from 2005 – 2007 where it was known as the Hilton International Stake. It was called the Momentum Energy Stakes from 2013 and 2014 and has been simply the Matriarch Stakes ever since 2015.
Race Venue for the Matriarch Stakes
The race is and always has been run at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne.
For a trip of 2000 metres, the horses start on the back straight on the south side of the course that runs parallel to the Maribyrnong River. They race around the sweeping turn at the eastern extremity of the track, and then turn for home to finish beside the grandstands.
More on Flemington can be found here:
Racing History of the Matriarch Stakes
The list of winners of the Matriarch Stakes shows the history of a race that has not attracted the top echelon of gallopers.
While it may be true that it is not easy to win at Group 2 level, the way the spring racing is currently set up does not suggest that any of the elite mares are targeting the Matriarch Stakes.
Some of the winners have been better than average. There are some Group 1 winners on the list. Other winners would point to the Matriarch Stakes as their best victory.
While four years of age is not exactly old for a Thoroughbred, by this age any that have true potential have already won above the level of the Matriarch Stakes. Given the expense involved with racing Thoroughbreds, connections with top horses are always going to skip the Matriarch Stakes and try some of the races that offer more lucrative prizemoney.
Here is a closer look at the past winners, along with any significant wins they may have had.
The year the race was first held, 1993, the winner was Gilded Splendor. Her racing resume is actually rather respectable. She made 23 starts for eight wins and five placings. She started her career on the country tracks, racing at places such as Bendigo, Geelong and Moe. She never won at Group level and it could legitimately be said that the Matriarch Stakes was her best win.
Next year, 1994, the winner Sudden Wonder was never tried at Group level. She was sent out for a couple of Listed races, but her results were dismal.
The Matriarch Stakes was move to Listed quality that year and Magical Storm represented an upgrade to the gallopers in the race. She cruised to an easy win, and then won her next race, the Listed Bratwurst Cup. Two races later, she won for the last time in a fillies and mares handicap at Sandown.
Gold City won in 1996. She was a New Zealand mare and she made 21 starts before they brought her over to have a try at Sandown. Her best outing, although not a win, was losing by a nose to Octagonal in the Group 1 Australian Cup, where she beat Juggler into third and finished ahead of Nothin’ Leica Dane.
For 1997 winner Battocchi, the Matriarch Stakes was her best win, although she next up won the Listed Bratwurst Club, following much the same pattern as Magical Storm.
The 1998 winner was Laebeel. She won seven races form 27 starts with six placings. She was from New Zealand and the Matriarch Stakes was her best win. The most interesting thing about her was that her sire was Zabeel. She did run a narrow second to Sky Heights in the 1999 Caulfield Cup, but she backed that with a 19th in the 1999 Melbourne Cup.
Sly Sandra won in 1999. Other than his race, she won nothing significant.
Flushed won the Matriarch Stakes in 2000. Her best win was the Group 2 Sunline Stakes at Moonee Valley in 2001.
The Matriarch Stakes was run as a Group 3 race in 2001. Piper Star was the winner. She was foaled in New Zealand and did quite a bit of racing there before she tried a minor race at Flemington. . She won a Mares Handicap next up at Caulfield. Her best, and last, win was the Group 2 Clyon Cup at Caulfield. They let her try the Group 1 Australian Cup in 2002, but she finished friendless.
Damaschino won in 2002. She seemed to have potential enough that they sent her on in a number of Group 2 and Group 1 races. After winning the Matriarch Stakes, she won the Group 3 Eclipse Stakes in her final race.
Our 2003 winner was Sweet Corn. She was okay. Winner of seven with eight placings from 26 jumps, Sweet Corn was slightly better than average, and like some of the others, the Matriarch Stakes was her best and last win.
Demerge saluted in 2004. She is probably the best racer we have found on the winners’ list to date. They ran her in the Melbourne Cup on two occasions. One was in 2005, the year of Makybe Diva’s third Melbourne Cup win. Demerge ran 13th. She tried again next year, but she finished 21st, 30 lengths behind winner Delta Blues. She won at Group 1 level in 2005 when she took out the Adelaide Cup at Morphettville.
Demerge won just under $1 million, mostly from making plenty of starts and winning eight races with 10 placing from 47 races.
Sutology (2005) also had the Matriarch Stakes as her last win in the first year the race was run as a Group 2 quality race. There seems to be something of a pattern emerging that winners of the Matriarch Stakes did not win again, which is the case with Sutology.
Brom Felinity (2006), Hidden Strings (2007), Bird Of Fire (2008), Purple (2009) and Well Rounded (2010) came next.
Of that group of winners, Purple was arguably the best. She made 28 starts for six wins and 11 placings and earned over $1.1 million. She won at Group 1 level when she won the Stormqueen Stakes at Rosehill in 2009 and the Group 1 Queensland Oaks at Eagle Farm in that same year. It is almost eerie that the Matriarch Stakes was her last win, although she lost the race the following year to Well Rounded and she had four good placings in Group 3 and Group 2 races after her Matriarch Stakes win.
We did not think we would need to write this again so soon, but when Vintedge won in 2011, it was to be her last win.
Midnight Martini won in 2012. The field for the race that year was smaller than average, just eight racers. In Midnight Martin’s case, it was not only her last win, it was her last race.
When the race was the Momentum Energy Stakes in 2013, the winner was Girl Gone Rockin’. She did no more rocking after winning the Matriarch Stakes. It was her last win and her last race, just like Midnight Martini.
We finally have a top name in 2014 winner Suavito. She won over $1.3 million from 24 starts for eight wins and eight placings, taking wins in the Group 1 C F Orr Stakes from Lucky Hussler and the Group 1 Futurity Stakes from Smokin’ Joey and 2014/2015 Horse of the Year Dissident.
The year of 2015 supplied us with another good winner in Lucia Valentina. She won over $4.3 million from 30 jumps for seven wins and six placings. Her eighth start gave her a Group 1 win in the Vinery Stud Stakes. She won the Group 1 Turnbull Stake in 2014 and next up she ran a nice third in the Caulfield Cup. We thought we were going to have to say that the Matriarch Stakes was her last win, but she saved us from that by winning the 2016 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick by 2.3 lengths over The United States, with Happy Clapper third.
Lucia Valentina was in the field for her last race in 2016, where she was sacrificed to Winx in the Cox Plate, where she finished seventh of 10.
Jessy Belle (2016) was followed by Savapinski (2017).
Jessy Belle returns us to the pattern of mares winning the Matriarch Stakes as their last win, although she tried five more races.
Savapinski is another that used the Matriarch Stakes for her last win, but unlike Jessy Belle, Savapinski kept trying, eight more times, with nothing better than a third in a BM99 race to show for the effort.
A good horse was 2018 winner Kenedna. She won over $2 million by winning 10 times and placing seven from 30 starts. The Matriarch Stakes was her last start with Darren Weir as her trainer. She won the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes from Dixie Blossoms and a month later, she took the Group 1 Doomben Cup from Life Less Ordinary.
Oceanex won in 2019. The Matriarch Stakes was her only win at Group level, although she finished well in other Group races.
Finally, we have 2020 winner Affair To Remember. We provided a link near the top of this article to the video of her Matriarch Stakes win. She is still active, but the Matriarch Stakes was her last win, so if she is to break the spell of horses not winning again, she needs to come back from her spell and win something.
The Matriarch Stakes field suffers somewhat due to its spot on the racing calendar. The winners were all good gallopers, or they never would have won in the first place, but none of the winners, with the possible exceptions of Kenedna, Lucia Valentia and Suavito made much impact on the turf.
As the race was upgraded, it attracted stronger runners, but nothing to compare to the horses that win the same trip in the big Group 1 races of the spring carnivals.
|Year||Matriarch Stakes Winners|
|2020||Affair To Remember|
|2013||Girl Gone Rockin'|
|2008||Bird Of Fire|