The Magic Millions is a fascinating concept. And dead simple. One of the horses in this sale is going to win a race worth $1 million. As a means of selling horses and promoting racing, the Magic Millions has come a long way since its inception in 1986. From that first catalog came the following year's Magic Millions Classic winner Snippets, who developed into a star performer on the racecourse and at stud.
As managing director Vin Cox said, “Having Snippets gave the Magic Millions a platform to attract more and better stock,” which the sales and racing scheme has multiplied year by year to its present status.
The sale earned its status as a leading auction Down Under by becoming the prime hunting ground for star juveniles, and then enough of them became important sires and dams to make breeders and buyers recognize that this wasn't simply a sale about a single day of racing.
It was another avenue, another angle, for finding the fastest horse.
As a conjunction of racing and breeding, the Magic Millions has proven a force for shaping the breed in Australia. For 30 years of breeding, it has been a powerful financial incentive to produce a hardy, precocious, and race-ready type of yearling.
Much like the American yearlings of old, these Australian youngsters are brought to the Magic Millions in January – almost identical in timing to the Keeneland July sale – and to be truly sales-worthy the yearlings have to be well-grown and look like ready, young racehorses.
Or, at least that's what they've had to look like in the past.
Cox said, “Although long a one-dimensional sale, the Magic Millions has evolved to the point of getting horses of differing types. Not just the big, forward types that you expect to sell well, but the nice prospects by sires like So You Think, Dundeel, and Shamus Award that get later-maturing stock have a place now.
“Last year was the first [Aus]$10 million race day, and it has been game changing for the sale and for the sport. Many are being kept in active training with this day of racing in mind, and so many more are eligible to participate” because of the larger race card.
Whereas the Magic Millions began with the emphasis on a single race and massive payout for the winner, the card this year features nine races with $10 million in prize money to share. Five of the races offer purses of $1 million, and two more, the Magic Millions Classic (2yos) and the MM Guineas (3yos), are worth $2 million, plus prizes. All the runners are Magic Millions sale graduates, except for winners of a special quartet of races for homebreds, and “this year, only three runners entered for the day were not sold at the Magic Millions,” Cox said.
Plus, the distances and conditions of the races allow different ages, sexes, and types of horses to partake in some of the wealth generated by the Magic Millions. The 2,200-meter event (1 3/8 miles) is the only race at a significant distance, but that is an intriguing addition for a sale that has long been the home of the “forward” horse.
And make no mistake, that is the goal of the Magic Millions consignors – selling the fastest horse. They have taken some of the lessons of American early-summer sales and bred up an indigenous auction with a winning streak at the highest level.
Cox proudly noted that 10 of the last 13 winners of the Gold Slipper, typically regarded as Australia's most important race for juveniles, were sold at the Magic Millions.
The 2015 winner of the Golden Slipper was a dark bay colt by Medaglia d'Oro named Vancouver, who sold at the Magic Millions, was unbeaten at 2, and was hailed a juvenile star. After covering his first book of mares for Coolmore in Australia in 2016, Vancouver will be a newcomer in Kentucky at Ashford for the 2017 Northern Hemisphere season.
Further connections to Kentucky breeding in the Magic Millions are yearlings by shuttle sires Animal Kingdom, Bernardini, Congrats, Medaglia d'Oro, More Than Ready, The Factor, and Uncle Mo. One unexpected sire is the non-shuttler Tapit, who has a pair of yearlings in the sale. Both were conceived in Kentucky on Southern Hemisphere time. Hip 165 is a good-sized gray filly out of the stakes winner Leinan (by Ready's Image). This is the first foal of the dam, who is out of a stakes winner and half-sister to a pair. The second Tapit is a chestnut colt, Hip 532, out of the stakes-winning mare Touch Love, by Not for Love. A half-brother to stakes winner Starfish Bay, this is a flashy colt with three white stockings, similar to California Chrome, who has four white legs, and is by a son of Pulpit (Lucky Pulpit) out of a mare by Not for Love (Love the Chase).
Perhaps the lucky buyer will name this one Aussie Chrome.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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