Australia’s best-known horse sale is on track to sell $250 million worth of horses under the sun this week. But the real business is in the shadows

“[The setting] helps the trainers find owners, and they all have some grogs. They think, “I’m not going to buy a horse.” At the end of the day they bought three.

“But others want to keep it very low key. Some want to hide. They think, “If I bid on it and I’m a really good judge, it must be a good horse and the competition will keep bidding.” It’s great theatre.”

And it’s rich theater, too, as the Magic Millions is on track to trade in yearlings worth $250 million by the end of the week, highlighted by a $2.6 million filly on day two, the top prize who was ever paid for a horse on the holiday strip. Long before Everest became an Australian racing phenomenon, the Magic Millions pioneered thinking outside the box.

Gai Waterhouse is watching the Magic Millions sales this week.

Gai Waterhouse is watching the Magic Millions sales this week.Credit:Luke Marsden

On a property next to the Gold Coast race track, potential buyers are walking around with their Bible: the sales catalogue. It is more than 1000 pages long and as thick as old-fashioned yellow pages. Each book has a name scrawled on the page so someone doesn’t accidentally pick it up and see the private, handwritten notes alongside a buyer’s favorite horses. Each horse has a lot number and a page with a detailed pedigree. This is a complex business and each buyer has a slightly different way of reading the same record.

“We have basically a minute and a half to two minutes to do a huge job on each yearling that the breeders have been working on for almost two and a half years, from mating to foal then finally get it for sale,” says Barry Bowditch, Managing Director of Magic Millions.


“Absolutely,” Bowditch replies.

Inside the sales complex, horses spin in circles as they perform, while members of the audience suck back coronas with lime and line up to pile shrimp on their buffet plates. The atmosphere is relaxed, but the pace of buying and selling is relentless. Grown men in thongs spend more money on horses than first-time buyers would for a home in Sydney. There’s the constant hum of auction noise and chatter, at least until a high-priced yearling walks in, when suddenly the room goes silent, the audience engrossed.

“The first sale we were in was a circus tent,” says Chester. “They didn’t build that shed.

“We were the people who invented Ringside dining, which now costs us a lot of money and [Magic Millions owner] Gerry [Harvey] gets mad it’s costing us too much money! Now other companies are copying what we do.”

Another key component of the Magic Millions is the lucrative race day that follows on Saturday. Only horses sold in Magic Millions sales are eligible.

Henry Field of Stud Newgate Farm will have three runners in Saturday’s $2 million two-year-old race. He is one of the biggest power players in the complex and he sells, buys and tries to find the next colt that will turn into a stallion with a license to print money.



“For us, buying and selling horses, we do this every day, every week, every month, every year,” he says. “You can’t afford to have an ego. You have to hit further away and stay level, trying to differentiate between the big, shiny stallions and the horses that are actually runners.

“It’s easy to get carried away in this business, but selfishness and hubris are the kiss of death.”

That’s why sometimes it pays not to be seen – no matter how obscure the hiding place.

Sports news, scores and expert commentary. Sign up for our sports newsletter. Australia’s best-known horse sale is on track to sell $250 million worth of horses under the sun this week. But the real business is in the shadows

Ryan Sederquist

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