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Bluebloods : Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale 2015
PAGE 31 MMGC 2015 YEARLING SALE www.magicmillions.com.au IN 1985 Carl Waugh, a complex character, came up with a simple idea, sell a $1m dream to racing enthusi- asts. Simple yet brilliant! Queenslander Waugh’s grand plan had a symbolic name, Magic Million. It immediately conjured the notion of fame and fortune in a catchy title. Waugh gathered some of Queensland’s biggest and wealthiest fellow thorough- bred breeders and presented his pitch. Sell just 200 yearlings at the Gold Coast and guarantee the $1m total prizemoney from vendor and owner payments. The plan placed a $3000 special payment from vendors to nominate a yearling for the sale and a further $3000 from the successful bidder to become eligible for the big race. It did not receive universal support from the breeders. Many actually strongly opposed Waugh’s plan. Waugh did draw funding and strong moral support from two breeding colleagues Gordon MacNicol and Merryl Kruger to get the grand plan underway, albeit with some trepidation. Bloodstock manager David Chester was sent out to garner support from some of Australia’s biggest studs. “ When I drove around the studs, the breeders either hugged me or set the dogs on me. The backlash from some quarters was astonishing,’’ Chester recalled. “My biggest concerns were getting 200 yearlings to the sale and then hoping 16 runners of some quality would make it to the first race.’’ Waugh originally had two non-negotia- bles in his plans. The sale and subsequent race were to be held on the Gold Coast in a March timeslot. The Gold Coast complex near the racetrack was acceptable to those willing to become involved, but the date was not to a large block of NSW-based breeders. They wanted the sale in early January to have a major bloodstock auction ahead of the well-entrenched New Zealand yearling sale later in the month when a lot of Australian horse money was banked across the Tasman. “The NSW breeders argued the Gold Coast in early January would have great appeal as a holiday destination for the industry players ready to combine a bit of work with some New Year celebrations,’’ Chester said. Waugh capitulated. January it was, and thus the sun and surf helped launch a sizzling and sexy marketing campaign. What a masterstroke it has proved. Many of the original vendors at the 1986 sale are still wedded to the Magic Millions sale. One of those is Gerry Harvey who was a fan of Waugh’s bold plan from the first time he heard of a $1m race linked to a sale. Harvey, who owns the massive Harvey Norman retail company, became so enamoured of the concept he bought the company. He rates the MM business as a real focus in his ultra busy corporate life. “I bought my first broodmares in 1972 and have been a bloodstock tragic ever since,’’ said Harvey, who formed a joint venture with John Singleton and Rob Ferguson to acquire the Coast complex and MM sales company in 1998. He subsequently bought out his two partners and is a hands-on owner along with his wife Katie Page, who is a big influence on the thoroughbred company’s activities. Harvey now owns five horse studs in Australia and New Zealand, almost 500 broodmares, and shares in hundreds of racing stock spread amongst 70 racehorse trainers in the two countries. Every day Harvey gains great delight in following the fortunes of his racehorses at a myriad of racetracks. “It’s great fun to have an involvement daily. I don’t bet and never have been a gambler on horses, but I get just as much pleasure watching them race,’’ he said. “If you posed the question of whether I had to give up horses or my right arm, gee, it would be a tough decision. I’m a salesman at heart. I discovered that at an early age. It ’s been my business driver. I love the horse sales. Do I love the racing or the sales the most? I’m a salesman!’’ Harvey admits though he quickly embraced the Magic Millions concept, he had no thoughts it would blossom to the extent it has since the first sale in 1986. “I wasn’t sure it would be anything but a one-off. I was happy to give it a go. I didn’t have great long term expectations for the Magic Millions back then.’ ’ Chester admits the first sale exceeded Waugh’s hopes. “ We had 200 yearlings and 20 reserves. The catalogue had a lot of the right type for a sale connection to a two year-old race in the January a year later. However many didn’t read that well in the catalogue. A lot were pretty skinny on breeding,’’ he said. “ We had a bit of luck though. From the first crop we had Snippets, Mother Duck, Boasting and Prince Anton. They all went on to run in the Golden Slipper. Having Snippets as our flag bearer first-up was like a Gold Lotto win for us. “The sale went far above our dreams. We had about 400 buyers around the ring and only 200 horses to sell. The average was just under $32,000 . Horses brought double what they would have reached at a normal sale.’’ Long term Queensland breeder Basil Nolan (now president of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia), from famous Raheen Stud near Warwick, was an eager participant in the inaugural MM sale. “I went to the first meeting of Queensland breeders at the Gold Coast and was sold on the idea straight away. I thought it was a marvellous plan Carl put forward. Others weren’t as keen and quite a few tried to have the Magic Million concept killed off before it got off the ground,’’ Nolan said. Raheen’s first MM draft consisted of three lots. He sold a No Faith filly for $22,000 , a Red Tony colt for $13,000 , and a Duke Ellington colt for $9000. “I would have got a fraction of that money if we had taken them to the Australian Estates sale at the Brisbane Exhibition grounds,’’ he said. “I’ve sold at every Magic Millions January sale since, and I’ll be back there with 14 yearlings this January. I love the sale.’’ Jon Haseler, now principal of the highly successful Glenlogan Park Stud, at Innisplain near Beaudesert, was just starting his involvement in the breeding industry under Relesah Pastoral Holdings. In the 1986 sale Haseler offered a Call Report filly who fetched $13,000, while a John’s Hope colt was knocked down for $14,000. Haseler, who has an accounting and property development background, was hooked. He is a big Magic Millions fan and will have a large draft again in 2015. John Messara has been a massive influence on Australian racing and breeding in the past three decades. His Arrowfield Stud is a trendsetter and now he holds the position of chairman of the Australian Racing Board. “The Magic Millions was a novel idea. It ’s gimmicky but it has worked very well. I thought it was an idea worth supporting in that first year and the results from day one with the sale and on the racetrack has given the Millions sustainable credibility,’’ he said. “It’s the right sale in the right location at the right time of the year. Breeders send their precocious types and they are rewarded with good prices. The buyers get types right for two year-old racing; but there is something for all at the January sale. It works every year. It’s been an unqualified success.’’ At the time of the MM launch sale Messara operated under the banner Middlebrook Park Stud. He sold two yearlings by Rancher, a colt for $24,000, and a filly for $60,000 . He was a successful part-owner of Malibu Magic in the second Magic Millions race in 1988. Sydney-based car dealer and passionate thoroughbred breeder John Muir has only one regret about his involvement in the 1986 MM sale, that he didn’t have more yearlings in the catalogue. “My initial reaction to the Millions plan was positive. The idea of just 200 horses being eligible to run in a $1m race appealed tome,butIonlyputatoeinthewaterthe first year. I was so thrilled with my result in 1986 I have been back every year. It’s a brilliant sale.’’ Muir said. “I’d never met David Chester when he first approached me, but we quickly became good friends and I enjoy my contact with him all the time. The statistics from the January sale are unbelievable. “The sale is guaranteed a huge crowd every year. The buyers all want to be at the Gold Coast at that time of the year. I’ve never missed a year and never will as long as I breed thoroughbreds.’’ Muir’s 1986 sale result was a top bid of $24,000 for a Swift Gun filly and $60,000 for a Rancher filly. Other notable 1986 vendors included the Kelly family’s Newhaven Park, Kruger’s Lyndhurst Stud, Colin McAlpine’s Eureka Stud, the Thompson family’s Widden Stud, Neville Stewart from Oaklands Stud and the Turkington family of Wattle Brae Stud. All those long-standing nurseries will be represented in the 2015 Magic Millions January catalogue. Carl Waugh has passed on, but his innovative 1985 audacious thinking has endured and reverberated around the world. Many of the international players who arrive on the Gold Coast for the annual mantra of sun, surf and a sublime working holiday should pay homage to the man who had the foresight and tenacity to deliver the ultimate dream to horse lovers, a million dollar dream.
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