Girls Are Ready for Magic week­end at the races

Rare daily dou­ble for fe­male-only race owner bonus

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - CHAR­LIE PEEL BREN­DAN CORMICK

A filly owned by 16 women from five dif­fer­ent states and rid­den by a fe­male jockey will cap a fam­ily fairy­tale if it wins the 1200m Magic Mil­lions 2YO Clas­sic to­day.

Quean­beyan trainer Joe Cleary hopes Girls Are Ready can win the race his fa­ther Frank won with Clan O’Sul­li­van in 1992.

In a true fam­ily af­fair, the horse, bought for $30,000 at last year’s Magic Mil­lions Gold Coast sale, is part-owned by Cleary’s wife Shar­lene and mother Sue.

“It’s a long time be­tween drinks,” said Cleary, who was track­side as a 16-year-old when Clan O’Sul­li­van won. His fa­ther has trav­elled from NSW for the race and will watch his son’s chance to em­u­late his win.

The trainer said Girls Are Ready had trav­elled well to Queens­land and was primed to give her best at the Gold Coast Turf Club to­day.

“She’s a tough lit­tle filly … she’s as game as Ned Kelly and gives her all,” Cleary said. “All the char­ac­ter­is­tics in the stable tell us she is ready, so fingers crossed we get a big, fat cheque on Satur­day.”

Cleary, a “small coun­try trainer with only 15 horses”, said it was a big achieve­ment to have a horse in the $2 mil­lion race.

Girls Are Ready will be rid­den by NSW jockey Jess Tay­lor, who has been in the sad­dle for the horse’s three starts, which yielded two wins and a third plac­ing.

Cleary said: “I’ve had a dozen jock­eys chas­ing the ride but it was a no-brainer to stay with Jess. She is a great jockey.”

Tay­lor, who be­came a jockey in 2011 af­ter in­tend­ing only to do track­work and has had al­most 300 ca­reer wins, said she was ex­cited ahead of the big race.

“Wouldn’t it be a dream come true if we could win it?” she said. “It’s a good one for the girls, with a fe­male jockey, fe­male own­ers.”

Tay­lor and her life part­ner Katie Power are ready to cel­e­brate a mo­men­tous week­end. To- mor­row marks seven months since Power gave birth to their daugh­ter Eve­lyn and to­day Tay­lor and Power, who has spent the past five years as an agent book­ing rides, unite pro­fes­sion­ally in rac­ing’s big league.

Last spring, Tay­lor got her first glimpse of Girls Are Ready rid­ing against her in a bar­rier trial be­fore the filly’s first start.

“She was tak­ing on older horses and tri­alled well. I was on an­other one of Joe’s but when it came time to go to the races he put me on Girls Are Ready,” Tay­lor said.

Cleary’s wife Shar­lene told The Week­end Aus­tralian the name Girls Are Ready, for a filly sired by Bet­ter Than Ready, was a nat­u­ral fit for the all-women syn­di­cate, a can­di­date for the $500,000 Magic Mil­lions women’s bonus.

“When we pur­chased her, we came up with that name straight away,” she said. “There just wasn’t any other name.”

Girls Are Ready is an $18 chance de­spite hav­ing won at her last two out­ings in Syd­ney.

All but one of Girls Are Ready’s 16 own­ers will be track­side.

Magic Mil­lions co-owner Katie Page said the story be­hind Girls Are Ready had put the horse at the top of her list for the race.

“Peo­ple have asked me what my favourite is for the race and I tell them from my heart it is Girls Are Ready,” she said.

“I’m ex­cited for Jess. There’s a lot of pres­sure on her — the 16 own­ers are so ex­cited and there’s Joe’s fa­ther’s legacy — but she’s cool and tak­ing it in her stride.”

Down­turn, what down­turn? The prop­erty and share mar­kets might be past their peak, but no one told the horse set, which turned out on the Gold Coast this week to splash tens of mil­lions of dol­lars on un­tried year­ling race prospects.

The top of the Magic Mil­lions year­ling auc­tion was not as buoy­ant as last year with the $1.6 mil­lion sale top­per well be­low last year’s $2m head­liner. But the broader num­bers keep creep­ing up: more horses, higher auc­tion sales to­tals, and av­er­age prices up an­other 10 per cent this year, con­tin­u­ing a long-term run higher since the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Within two hours of the sale open­ing cashed-up lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional buy­ers drove spir­ited bid­ding for the high­est-rated horses with a four-way con­test in­clud­ing global heavy­weight Cool­more, Dubai-backed Shad­well Farm and James Har­ron Blood­stock for the $1.6m sales top­per.

Hong Kong prop­erty de­vel­oper Tony Fung’s Aquis Park was the vic­tor for the Red­oute’s Choice colt as he con­tin­ues to build an em­pire on the ru­ins of Magic Mil­lions record holder Nathan Tin­kler’s for­mer Pati­nack Farm.

Mike Flem­ing, from the Hunter Val­ley ven­dor Bhima Thor­ough­breds, says the price was dou­ble what he ex­pected.

“But with the amount of money here you never know what is go­ing to hap­pen at that end of the mar­ket,” he says.

Magic Mil­lions am­bas­sador Mike Tin­dall got a pleas­ant sur­prise when the best of the six horses he is sell­ing at the week-long auc­tion, a colt by Zouster out of Shakira, sold for $900,000, 50 per cent more than his es­ti­mate.

“It’s quite a sur­real world,” says West­pac chair Lind­say Maxsted, who at­tends the auc­tion as chair of global superpower Cool­more’s Aus­tralian op­er­a­tions and a breeder in his own right.

But it’s not so strange. A surge in prize money in Vic­to­ria and NSW is fu­elling grow­ing in­ter­est in horse own­er­ship, Maxsted says, amount­ing to a pay rise for the army of peo­ple em­ployed to train and race horses.

John Gos­den, one of Europe’s top train­ers, made the trek to the Gold Coast for the first time to over­see buy­ing for the deep pock­ets of Sheik Mo­hammed’s Godol­phin op­er­a­tion and de­clared it the fu­ture of a global in­dus­try that is strug­gling in Europe, Bri­tain and the US.

“In this coun­try it re­mains very young and vi­brant and I think that is a mas­sive ad­van­tage that Aus­tralia now has,” Gos­den says.

“So if I was 25 again I wouldn’t go to Cal­i­for­nia. I would try and im­mi­grate here to this busi­ness that you have here.”

To­tal prize money has al­most dou­bled in the past 10 years. It rose 7.4 per cent in 2017-18 to $652m and will be up again this fi­nan­cial year af­ter Vic­to­ria and NSW added an­other $64m to com­pete for promi­nence dur­ing each other’s tra­di­tional car­ni­vals in spring and au­tumn re­spec­tively.

The Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ment an- Janelle Whal­ley and her fam­ily will be lin­ing up for a rare feat at this af­ter­noon’s fea­ture event for two year olds on the Gold Coast — two bites at the $500,000 bonus for fe­male own­ers in the one race.

A scratch­ing yes­ter­day by Yes Yes Yes has brought Ms Whal­ley’s sec­ond horse, Gala Miss, into con­tention for the $2 mil­lion race, along­side her best prospect The Odyssey.

Shares in Gala Miss are held by Ms Whal­ley’s two daugh­ters Heidi and Tay­lor — who is fly­ing in from Hong Kong for the race — and the three daugh­ters of her part­ner Dar­ren Wil­son, Jade, Alli-Rose and Made­line.

And if that’s not enough, Heidi works for the trainer Kelly Schweida and is dat­ing the jockey that will steer The nounced an­other $40m in prize money last month, top­ping a $24m in­crease by Rac­ing NSW an­nounced in Sep­tem­ber. Both in­creases are tar­geted at the lower and mid­dle races, with im­proved prize money for horses that run fourth to 10th as a way to help sus­tain train­ers and own­ers. But it also fol­lows new races such as The Ever­est, which in its sec­ond year is the rich­est turf race in the world.

Con­trast that to Bri­tain, where prize purses were cut last year and the book­mak­ers don’t have the same for­mal agree­ments with the rac­ing in­dus­try that Tab­corp has with the state rac­ing bod­ies which are used to re­cy­cle bet­ting turnover back into the in­dus­try.

Mar­quee races like the Grand Na­tional have 40 horses com­pet­ing for 1m ($1.75m) and the Ep­som Derby for 1.5m. The most fa­mous race in the US, the Ken­tucky Derby, has a $US2m ($2.75m) purse, com­pared to the Mel­bourne Cup which is worth $7.3m, up from $6.25m last year.

Tom Mag­nier, the son of Ir­ish rac­ing leg­end John and head of Cool­more’s lo­cal op­er­a­tions, says Aus­tralia is now as im­por­tant as any of its global op­er­a­tions, and will be at­tract­ing more re­sources.

“We are go­ing to be in­vest­ing a lot more down here. We have bought a lot of the top stal­lions and hope­fully we can keep do­ing that in the com­ing years,” Mag­nier says. “It gives you con­fi­dence when prize money is the way it is Odyssey, Jimmy Or­mond.

“We are all hugely ex­cited,” Ms Whal­ley said.

“It’s a nice thing to have the whole fam­ily in­volved.”

The bay filly was sold by Magic Mil­lions co-owner Gerry Har­vey, whose wife and busi­ness part­ner Katie Page in­tro­duced the fe­male own­ers bonus in 2012. Women-only own­ers have since car­ried off the prize three times, in­clud­ing last year’s win­ner Sun­light, which col­lected a to­tal of $1.52 mil­lion.

The re­tail duo were clos­ing in on their own record, with the three-day sale to­tal tip­ping $150m, within strik­ing dis­tance of the record $166m 2018 re­sult with more sales to come.

There were nine $1m-plus sales in the first two days — equal to last year — but none yes­ter­day, with the top price $900,000 for a Writ­ten Ty­coon colt bought by James Har­ron blood­stock. The av­er­age has eased back to $237,000. and the sales com­pa­nies are get­ting the best buy­ers to Aus­tralia.”

US bil­lion­aires like Jon Kelly and Bar­bara Banke, Arab sheikhs such as Dubai’s Mo­hammed and Ham­dan Al Rashid al Mak­toum and am­bi­tious new­com­ers Fung and Yuesh­eng Zhang are among the in­ter­na­tional buy­ers re­turn­ing to the sales this year.

They like the idea that what­ever they buy this year will have the chance to make its money back next year with a run for the $2m prize purse in Satur­day’s two yearold fea­ture race.

Magic Mil­lions own­ers Gerry Har­vey and Katie Page keep up a re­lent­less pace in the lead-up to and run­ning of the sale.

Hav­ing bought the busi­ness out of bank­ruptcy 20 years ago with ad­ver­tis­ing guru John Sin­gle­ton and busi­ness­man Rob Fer­gu­son, Har­vey and Page have since built up the turnover from $23m to more than $160m.

It has be­come a week-long car­ni­val that kicks off with a celebrity polo match and a cham­pag­ne­soaked party on the sands of Broad­beach be­fore the bid­ding even gets un­der way.

A ros­ter of in­ter­na­tional am­bas­sadors in­cludes the Queen’s grand­daugh­ter Zara Tin­dall and Ar­gen­tinian polo heart-throb Na­cho Figueras. The lat­est ad­di­tion is Billy Slater, who tried out as a jockey and eques­trian be­fore be­com­ing a rugby league su­per­star for Queens­land and the Mel- bourne Storm. “If you can get peo­ple into the frame of mind — and that is what we are try­ing to do here with the polo, the beach, the big party tonight, all of this ac­tiv­ity — we are try­ing to cre­ate an at­mos­phere where peo­ple are get­ting ex­cited and they want to get in­volved,” Har­vey says.

Har­vey is not only the coowner — he’s also one of the big­gest ven­dors, with his Bar­ra­mul Stud putting more than 70 of the 1157 horses up for sale.

“It’s a won­der­ful busi­ness, but it’s chalk and cheese with Har­vey Nor­man.”

Buy­ing is not con­fined to the top end. There was a horse sold for just $15,000 and dozens more be­low $100,000. But the me­dian price of around $180,000 is right in the sweet spot for lo­cal horse rac­ing syn­di­cates, where the rules changed in 2017 to dou­ble the “in­vest­ment” limit to $500,000 and al­low up to 20 share­hold­ers per horse.

The syn­di­ca­tion mar­ket puts the dream of be­ing on the win­ners podium at race day within reach of mum and dad own­ers and it is flour­ish­ing.

Chris Ward, who bought the dual Ever­est win­ner Redzel for $120,000 at the 2014 Magic Mil­lions auc­tions, reck­ons the num­ber of se­ri­ous syn­di­ca­tion play­ers has quadru­pled to 40 in the past decade.

With Redzel now the sec­ond­high­est prize win­ner in Aus­tralia, Ward says Triple Crown syn­di­ca­tions have been sell­ing out in the mid­dle of the year and he has to re­sist the pres­sure to buy horses just for the sake of it.

“(Redzel) has proven it is open to all com­ers, it doesn’t mat­ter who the horse is or who owns it, syn­di­ca­tion is avail­able at all dif­fer­ent lev­els and as far as we are con­cerned it has gen­er­ated a lot of in­ter­est in the horses and the num­ber of peo­ple who want to come an join Triple Crown this year,” Ward says.

“There are a lot more in­ter­na­tional play­ers com­ing from China and the US and Europe — (and) we are get­ting some of those own­ers from dif­fer­ent parts of the world com­ing into our syn­di­cates, too.”

Peter Woollett, a gra­zier from Nar­doo Sta­tion, 300km north­west of Mt Isa, has been around horses since he was a teenager but his re­mote lo­ca­tion means he has to get his fix via syn­di­ca­tion.

Woollett has shares in 10 horses at $6000 to $14,000 each through Dy­namic Syn­di­ca­tions, fol­low­ing their progress with satel­lite tele­vi­sion, weekly emails from the man­agers and the oc­ca­sional flight to Syd­ney to see his horses run at Rand­wick Race­course.

“When it is in your blood, you’re gone,” Woollett says.

“If you’ve been around horses long enough you know that there are more los­ing days than there are win­ning days.

“To me it is some­thing where you might have a lit­tle spare cash and the pay-off is that you get to see your horse go­ing around.”

Dean Watts, Dy­nam­ics owner and a for­mer banker who once tried to es­tab­lish an ex­change to trade shares of race­horses, says that squares with the ex­pe­ri­ence of many of the 2000 share­hold­ers on his books, although some get very lucky.

“What syn­di­ca­tion does is al­low mum and dad to be in­volved in rac­ing, with full owner’s priv­i­leges. They are nam­ing the race book, they get their name in the pa­per and they are treated like VIPs,” he says.

“It is an in­vest­ment in a life­style, for not a lot of out­lay.”

And if you get it right, as Watts did with 2004 Cox Plate win­ner Sav­abeel, it can be a life-chang­ing in­vest­ment. Sav­abeel won $2.7m for share­hold­ers who were “lit­er­ally the butcher, the baker, the can­dle­stick maker”, be­fore be­ing sold to stud in New Zealand for a then record price.

“It is one of the only leisure busi­nesses that you could ac­tu­ally re­tire off your pas­sion, if you get lucky.”

The money gets much big­ger if you can par­lay a suc­cess­ful rac­ing ca­reer into breed­ing. Now push­ing 22 years old, Red­oute’s Choice has be­come the auc­tion leader, with the two top-priced sales at the Magic Mil­lions for $1.6m and $1.4m. The late ca­reer resur­gence ap­pears to be built on the form of his prog­eny, The Au­tumn Sun, the most suc­cess­ful three-year-old of the past sea­son.

John Me­sara, the for­mer stock­bro­ker and Ar­row­field Stud owner who part-owns Red­oute’s Choice, says the stal­lion is like the BHP of the rac­ing game. “He is the one you re­turn to when you want se­cu­rity and safety.”

Me­sara also owns his off­spring Snitzel, whose stand­ing fee has jumped from $33,000 to $220,000 in the past year, spurred by off­spring Redzel’s feats in win­ning the first two run­nings of the Ever­est. Me­sara es­ti­mates the lead­ing sire will gen­er­ate rev­enue of $28m-$30m this year.

Even at those high prices, there’s money to be made for the buyer.

Red­oute’s Choice has sired 78 year­lings that sold for $1m or more, in­clud­ing a half brother to Black Caviar that sold in 2014 for $5m.

James Har­ron, who since leav­ing Cool­more has set up a suc­cess­ful busi­ness buy­ing colts with po­ten­tial to be­come big money stal­lions, rates Red­oute’s Choice one of the best three stal­lions in the world and worth “hun­dreds of mil­lions”.

He’s had a noted suc­cess in pay­ing $165,000 in 2015 for Cap­i­tal­ist — a Magic Mil­lions and Golden Slip­per win­ner who was the high­est-earn­ing two-year-old be­fore be­ing sold as a stal­lion for $25m.

“We ba­si­cally want to buy the best son of the next big thing,” Har­ron says from the bid­ding ring, where he splashed $1.4m for a Red­oute’s Choice colt on day two.

Har­ron thinks the mar­ket is due for a pause and is likely to slow as the years con­tinue.

Watt agrees, ar­gu­ing that the fall­ing share and prop­erty mar­kets, a lend­ing squeeze, slow wages growth and the prospect of a change in gov­ern­ment at the May fed­eral elec­tion mean the change is due.

“Some­where along the line it has to stop, but it’s not go­ing to stop here to­day,’’ he says.

‘You might have a lit­tle spare cash and the pay-off is that you get to see your horse go­ing around’ PETER WOOLLETT GRA­ZIER

LUKE MARS­DEN; HOL­LIE ADAMS

Rider Jess Tay­lor with Magic Mil­lions co-owner Katie Page; be­low: Tay­lor with part­ner Katie Power and daugh­ter Eve­lyn, 7 months

Clock­wise from top: The Gold Coast Magic Mil­lions year­ling sales this week; Magic Mil­lions owner Katie Page; a horse struts its stuff; Chris Ward bought Ar­row­field lot 64 for $240,000; John Gos­den, left, and James Cum­mings

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