Mil­lions at stake for mar­quee event

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - AN­DREW WHITE

Magic Mil­lions co-owner Katie Page calls it a “bou­tique Mel­bourne Cup”.

Up to 25,000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing some of the big­gest names in busi­ness and rac­ing, will cram into the Gold Coast race­track to­day to watch grad­u­ates of past Magic Mil­lions auc­tions vie for $10 mil­lion in prize­money across nine races.

“I don’t mind the fact that we can’t fit in the 100,000 crowds that go to Flem­ing­ton,” Ms Page says. “I like the fact that we can de­liver a bou­tique Mel­bourne Cup ex­pe­ri­ence for them.”

Ms Page and hus­band Gerry Har­vey — co-owner of the Magic Mil­lions and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of re­tailer Har­vey Nor­man — will host 480 guests in the sole mar­quee at the track. Among them will be Queens­land Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk, broad­caster Alan Jones, Lend Lease chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve McCann, Ryan and Claire Stokes, Seven chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Worner, and top breed­ers and buy­ers in­clud­ing Cool­more Aus­tralia chief Tom Mag­nier and Ar­row­field’s John Mes­sara.

Roy­als in­clud­ing the ex­pect­ing Zara Phillips and her hus­band Mike Tin­dall — who put up six horses through the RedWall Syn­di­cate — Aussie home loans chief James Sy­mond and wife Claire, busi­ness­man Tony Shep­herd and Chi­nese horse buyer YP Cheng will also be there.

As well as cham­pagne served in gold gob­lets, guests in the wis­te­ria-draped mar­quee will be sam­pling some of Mr Har­vey’s own pro­duce: cock­tails fea­tur­ing his cu­cum­bers and sir­loin from his beef prop­er­ties.

The race day is the cli­max to a week-long car­ni­val that has carved out a niche as the first ma­jor year­ling sale on the calendar and a mag­net for wealthy horse-flesh fanciers, in­clud­ing sheiks, the Queen’s rac­ing man­ager John Warren, US bil­lion­aires John Kelly and B. Wayne Hughes.

The lat­ter pair went head to head to land the sale-top­ping $2m colt sired by I am In­vin­ci­ble on Thurs­day, be­fore Mr Kelly pre­vailed.

Queens­land’s rich­est prize purse this year will be avail­able only to fe­male own­ers in the Magic Mil­lions two-year-old race run this af­ter­noon. Run­ners such as auc­tion grad­u­ate Sun­light — owned by a group of women in­clud­ing Wid­den Stud’s Katie Thomp­son, Hanna Wall and the wife of Aquis Park owner Tony Fung — will vie for a $500,000 bonus for fe­male own­ers on top of the $2m race purse.

Ms Page in­tro­duced the bonus in 2013 and says it has spurred a surge in the num­ber of fe­male own­ers. Regis­tra­tions for the prize are run­ning at 230 this year, up 40 per cent from last year.

Jes­sica Bott, the Ken­tucky show jumper newly wed to Gai Water­house’s train­ing part­ner Adrian, re­turned from a hon­ey­moon in time to watch the sales but is yet to se­cure her own stake in a race­horse.

“They (women-only syn­di­cates) are hard to get into,” Ms Bott said. “So hope­fully this year will be the first op­por­tu­nity.’’

More than 50 per cent of the reg­is­tered own­ers for this year are first-time thor­ough­bred race­horse own­ers. And all the horses are fil­lies.


Katie Page, right, with Jes­sica Bott at the Magic Mil­lions mar­quee on the Gold Coast be­fore to­day’s big race event

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