Another Melbourne Cup Carnival comes to a close with a bumper nine-race meeting at Flemington on Saturday afternoon for Champions Stakes Day. The Group 1 Champions Stakes (2000m) headlines proceedings, accompanied by two other star-studded Group 1 races: the Champions Sprint (1200m) and the Champions Mile (1600m). Clear skies are forecast for the meeting, which is set to commence at 12:40pm AEDT.
Track rating and rail placement will be confirmed on Friday afternoon after VRC Oaks Day.
Keep reading for our free race-by-race preview and quaddie selections for Champions Stakes Day 2023
Race 1: BM90 Handicap (1600m)
Japanese Emperor returns to Flemington for the first time since finishing third in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) earlier this year. The four-year-old gelding finished a half-length off Legarto and Attrition on that day, and that form sticks out like a sore thumb in the opener. He has blown the cobwebs out with runs over 1300m and 1400m to begin this preparation, and fourth-up at 1600m looks ideal. From barrier eight, Damien Oliver can lob better than midfield, and if he finds cover, Japanese Emperor will be given every chance to bring up a long-overdue win at nice odds.
A competitive field of 11 sprinters just below Group 1 level have accepted for the Listed Always Welcome Stakes. Parisal saw nothing but backsides in The Invitation (1400m) when racing in restricted room. The four-year-old Astern mare finished 1.42 lengths off Magic Time in the Group 3 The Nivison (1200m) first-up, and that form is more than good enough here. This is her first look at Flemington, but with James McDonald on board from barrier four, she can stalk the speed all the way down the straight before unleashing her elite turn of foot.
Schwarz was a dominant Gosford debut winner on October 5 before finishing strongly in the Group 3 Red Anchor Stakes (1200m) behind Archo Nacho and Maharba. He threw away his winning chances at Moonee Valley when bombing the start, but the way he hit the line once balanced up was impressive. Despite doing plenty wrong and not having the greatest luck in running, the three-year-old colt did extremely well to be beaten by only 2.1 lengths. James McDonald sticks on board, which is a massive plus, and as long as the pair can find a gap in the home straight from barrier two, Schwarz looks the goods in the Listed Springtime Stakes.
Muramasa was scratched from the Group 3 Bendigo Cup (2400m) last week to be saved for the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m). He was too good for his rivals in the Group 3 Coongy Cup (2000m) and looked like he was going as well as anything through the line, suggesting the 2600m should be no issue. It is his first look at the trip on Saturday, but with natural improvement and strong exposed form, he looks a deserving favourite.
Queensland Oaks (2200m) winner Amokura put in a nice first-up effort in the Group 3 Angst Stakes (1600m), and the step up to 2000m in the Matriarch Stakes looks perfect. Damien Oliver hops back aboard the mare he guided to Group 1 success in June, and from barrier 12, the pair will be towards the rear of the field upon settling. Amokura has a strong turn of foot for a stayer, and if she can handle the rise in class, she looks a great play in the Matriarch.
Imperatriz is a genuine Group 1 superstar. She proved that when breaking the track record in the Moir Stakes (1000m) and then toyed with her rivals in the Manikato Stakes (1200m). Saturday’s Champions Sprint is her toughest task this time in, and despite this being her first look at the Flemington straight on race day, she looks impossible to go past. The Kiwi has 11 wins from 12 starts on firmer decks and is undefeated through four starts in Victoria this year. Her turn of foot is elite, and as long as she handles the Flemington straight, we are confident Imperatriz makes a clean sweep of the Victorian Group 1 sprints.
Mr Brightside went down by the barest of margins to Romantic Warrior in the Cox Plate, having run into a red-hot Fangirl the start prior. A 10-time winner at the mile, he is up there as one of the best horses in the country. From barrier two, Craig Williams can stalk the speed, much as the pair did in the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) in a similar-sized field. This is a bit harder than that day, with Cox Plate rivals Fangirl and Alligator Blood to contend with; however, if Mr Brightside is at his best, he wins the Champions Mile.
Kiwi mare Prowess showed all her class when winning the Group 2 Crystal Mile (1600m) at Moonee Valley and looks ready to strike third-up in the Group 1 Champions Stakes. She is a three-time winner at 2000m from as many starts, and despite this being her toughest task to date, she seems to be right up to it. Mark Zahra sticks on board and, from barrier four, will make sure Prowess is given every chance to claim Group 1 success. Her turn of foot is elite and Flemington looks to suit her perfectly.
Mornington Glory was an arrogant winner second-up at Geelong last time out, putting 2.5 lengths on his rivals in a dominant display. The five-year-old gelding has always had the potential to reach higher levels than what he contests on the weekend, but if his latest win is anything to go by, he has come back from a long injury layoff better then ever. He has Flemington experience under his belt and now, under the care of Gavin Beddgood, he looks poised to strike.