Millions at stake for marquee event
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