Champions crowned as magical Melbourne Cup Carnival concludes

11 November 2023 Written by VRC

The greatest week on the Australian racing calendar, the Melbourne Cup Carnival, has again proven that it is the country’s most popular racing event as more than a quarter of a million people flocked to Flemington Racecourse across four fabulous spring days to experience world-class racing, fashion, food and entertainment.

Australia’s original major event, the Melbourne Cup Carnival, delivered the nation’s highest race day attendances in 2023 as international and interstate visitors attended in droves, joining Melburnians from all walks of life as they made the pilgrimage to Flemington.

The final day of the carnival, TAB Champions Stakes Day, saw 58,021 people in attendance to witness champions of the turf celebrated and crowned across three heavyweight contests, taking the total crowd across the four days to over 262,000.

Australasia’s sprint queen Imperatriz conquered her rivals and the famous Flemington straight in the $3 million Group 1 Darley Champions Sprint (1200m) with a dominant success under Opie Bosson.

A Group 1 winner on both sides of the Tasman, the Mark Walker-trained Imperatriz is now the most successful top flight winner in the world in 2023 with six at the highest level; no other horse worldwide has won more than four.

Pride of Jenni ridden by jockey Declan Bates wins the Kennedy Champions Mile.

Pride of Jenni backed up her incredible victory in last Saturday’s TAB Empire Rose Stakes with another runaway win in the $3 million Kennedy Champions Mile (1600m) for trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace and jockey Declan Bates.

The mare has been one of the revelations of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, as has her jockey Bates, who has come of age on the grandest stage of them all.

James McDonald returns to the mounting yard on Atishu (NZ) after winning the TAB Champions Stakes. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

The $3 million Group 1 TAB Champions Stakes (2000m) was taken out by Chris Waller-trained Atishu, who also came out of last week’s TAB Empire Rose Stakes, giving superstar jockey James McDonald his third Group 1 race win of the week.

There was a third winner out of the TAB Empire Rose Stakes, too, with fourth-placed Deny Knowledge returning a week later to take out the $300,000 Group 2 TAB Matriarch Stakes (2000m).

The VRC today partnered with the Victorian Branch of the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL Australia) for Remembrance Day, with a Commemorative Service held in the Mounting Yard with a bugler sounding the Last Post, a recitation of the Ode of Remembrance by RSL Victoria’s Fundraising Manager and Vietnam Veteran Peter Smith OAM ahead of a minute of silence at 11am. Racegoers generously supported the Annual Poppy Appeal by purchasing red poppy lapel pins from on-course RSL Victoria volunteers, with the poppy replacing the traditional red rose as the official flower for the race day and all proceeds going towards the RSL to provide life-changing support for our veterans and their families.

TAB Champions Stakes Day brought an end to four spectacular days of world-class racing, headlined by the dominant triumph of Without A Fight in the $8.4 million Group 1 Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) on Tuesday and the final Cup Week for legendary jockey Damien Oliver.

Champion jockey Damien Oliver is sprayed with champagne by fellow jockeys after riding in his final race at headquarters during Stakes Day at Flemington.

Oliver rode three winners across the week, stretching his record tally for the most wins over the Melbourne Cup Carnival to 88.
The Melbourne Cup Carnival saw 441 horses compete in 37 races, representing an average field size of almost 12 runners. The four days, which offered more than $30 million in prize money, featured 25 different winning trainers and 18 separate riders tasting victory.

For the third consecutive year, James McDonald won the Ron Hutchinson Award for leading jockey over the four days of the Melbourne Cup Carnival with 30 points, followed by Jamie Kah on 23 points, who finished the week with the most wins for Cup Week on six, and Blake Shinn on 22 points.

In the J B Cummings Award for trainers, it was Chris Waller who took the title for 2023 ahead of James Cummings and Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace both on 15 points.

Waller and the Maher/Eustace partnership were joined by Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young with three winners for the week.
Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Chief Executive Officer Steve Rosich said he was delighted to welcome large crowds and exceptional horses to Flemington.

“The 2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival has delivered fantastic racing and everything that Flemington is synonymous for across fashion, food and entertainment,” Mr Rosich said.

“It’s been phenomenal to welcome big crowds for each day of the carnival, including thousands of interstate and international visitors, and to finish on a high with elite racing under blue skies on TAB Champions Stakes Day.

“TAB Champions Stakes Day has closed out yet another hugely successful Melbourne Cup Carnival, and we thank the 262,000 racegoers that have come through the gates of Flemington and everyone celebrating from home for being a part of it all.

“The VRC would also like to acknowledge all the hard work and commitment to Cup Week from all racing participants, our sponsors and partners, our entire workforce and all of our volunteers.

“We now look ahead to a fantastic summer and autumn program of racing at Flemington.”

The world-famous Birdcage Enclosure again played host to a roster of champions including Melbourne Cup Carnival Ambassador and Australian Diamonds Captain Liz Watson, Geelong great Tom Hawkins and his wife Emma Hawkins, Collingwood premiership player Isaac Quaynor, Olympian Peter Bol, Melbourne Storm star Ryan Papenhuyzen, VRC Ambassador and Paralympian Emma Booth, AFLW stars Sarah Hosking, Jess Hosking, Grace Egan and Eilish Sheerin for the VRC, actor Rachel Griffiths and social personality Ruby Brownless for Lexus, social personality Annalise Dalins with G.H Mumm, Australian cricket great Glenn McGrath and Australian Diamonds Netballer Jo Weston for TAB, and AFL players Ivan Soldo, Ned Reeves, Jai Newcombe and Harrison Petty for Schweppes.

The greatest race week in Australia concluded with a flourish on and off the track. Spice Girl Melanie C, known to a generation as Sporty Spice, took to the stage at Palooza, Flemington’s newest festival-inspired entertainment offering, bringing her DJ set straight from Glastonbury and Ibiza to Melbourne. Melanie C also made an appearance in the famous Birdcage.

In its 61st year, Melbourne Cup Carnival Fashions on the Field in The Park attracted stylish entrants across the first three days of Cup Week with the competition coming to a spectacular close on Kennedy Oaks Day.

The Best Dressed competition was won by Eleanor Campbell from Cambridge in New Zealand. Ms Campbell wore a white full-length dress by Solace London and hat by Monika Neuhauser Millinery. Domingo Martinez, from Sydney won the Best Suited category in an upcycled suit and self-made millinery.

The Best Dressed and Best Suited winners each took away over $54,000 in cash and prizes from sponsors including Kennedy, Penfolds, TCL Electronics, Sofitel Melbourne On Collins, Schweppes, TAB and Network 10.

The finals of the creative and design-led categories commenced on Penfolds Victoria Derby Day with the popular Emerging Designer Award, won by Melbourne-based creative Jessica Virk who is currently undertaking her final year in Bachelor of Fashion Design at Whitehouse Institute of Design. The Millinery Award, re-named in 2022 to honour the late Melbourne icon, philanthropist and friend of Flemington, Lillian Frank AM MBE was judged on Lexus Melbourne Cup Day and won by Canberra based milliner and third time winner Cynthia Jones Bryson.

Today, the Fashion Garden in The Park transformed into The Magical Garden delivering style, fun and entertainment for hundreds of delighted children. Fashion continued to be a centerpiece within The Park with a style squad out and about surprising some of the best dressed and most stylish families with special family friendly prizes.

The Park Live Stage played host to an amazing lineup across Cup Week including British DJ and producer Joel Corry, Australian duo Client Liaison, one of Ireland’s most popular bands of all time, The Corrs, and legendary Noiseworks frontman Jon Stevens to name a few. The party came to close today with Australian DJs Timmy Trumpet and Mell Hall entertaining thousands of music fans.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival’s Pin & Win campaign continues to be a great community contributor with over $7 million raised for charities and this year pins were sold across the course for new charity partner, Australian Childhood Foundation. This year, the campaign has raised more than $535,000 for the Australian Childhood Foundation with major prize winner Deborah Ford from Queensland driving away with a brand new 2023 Lexus RX350H 2WD plus enhancement pack. This suprasses the amount raised for the Australian Childhood Foundation in 2022 and takes the two-year total to more than $1 million, with the final figure to be confirmed in coming days.

2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival Group 1 winners

Race  Prizemoney Winner Trainer Jockey  
Penfolds Victoria Derby (2500m) $2,000,000 Riff Rocket Chris Waller James McDonald  
Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) $2,000,000 Ozzmosis Bjorn Baker Rachel King  
TAB Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) $1,000,000 Pride Of Jenni Ciaron Maher & David Eustace Declan Bates  
Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) $8,410,000 Without A Fight Anthony & Sam Freedman Mark Zahra  
Kennedy Oaks (2500m) $1,000,000 Zardozi James Cummings James McDonald  
TAB Champions Stakes (2000m) $3,000,000 Atishu Chris Waller James McDonald  
Kennedy Champions Mile (1600m) $3,000,000 Pride of Jenni Ciaron Maher & David Eustace Declan Bates  
Darley Champions Sprint (1200m) $3,000,000 Imperatriz Mark Walker Opie Bosson  

2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival attendances

Penfolds Victoria Derby Day 73,056
Lexus Melbourne Cup Day 84,492
Kennedy Oaks Day 46,596
TAB Champions Stakes Day 58,021
TOTAL 262,165