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What to expect this 2018/19 TAB Queensland Summer Racing Carnival

For the third year the TAB $15 million Queensland Summer Racing Carnival will pave the ‘Road to Magic Millions’ over two action-packed months, culminating in the celebrated $10 million Star Magic Millions Race Day on January 12.

With Queensland racing and wagering preparing to enter a new era following the Tatts-Tabcorp merger, Racing Queensland is pleased to welcome TAB as the carnival’s new major sponsor.

It includes major sponsorship of the fourth Origin Jockey Series (December 7-8) and the highly sought after $1.6 million Summer Crowns Bonuses.

The action gets under way at Doomben on Saturday with the running of the Listed RadioTAB Keith Noud Quality and the inaugural running of the Sky Racing Pam O'Neill Handicap. 

Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said this year’s summer carnival promotions and activities would further highlight the benefits unlocked thanks to the publicised partnership with Tabcorp.

“It is pleasing to see more benefits of the Tatts-Tabcorp merger being realised through the sponsorship of the 2018 TAB Queensland Summer Racing Carnival,” Mr Parnell said.

“The ongoing support of Tabcorp through its wagering and media divisions will ensure that Racing Queensland can continue to grow this new-look carnival even further.

“The $1.6 million in bonuses offered to trainers, jockeys and owners on top of $15 million in prize money means Queensland is the only place to be this summer.

“A strong summer carnival is important for Queensland, as it means the eyes of Australian fans will again be on our industry across the summer holiday period and will help Racing Queensland grow its $1.2 billion contribution to the state economy through racing events and tourism each year.”

The carnival is carefully pieced together with a number of series’ and marquee race days providing the perfect lead-up to Queensland’s summer ‘Grand Final’ on Magic Millions day.

We spoke to some of the participants who shared in the excitement and the lucrative spoils on offer last year to see what we can expect in 2018/19.

JOCKEY – MATTHEW MCGILLIVRAY (TAB ORIGIN JOCKEY SERIES, DECEMBER 7-8)

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Despite being born and raised in South East Asia, Matthew McGillivray felt every part the Queenslander when he pulled on the maroon silks for the first time alongside Jim Byrne in 2017 Origin Jockey Series.

The former champion apprentice is determined to help his newfound home state secure its first title after four years of woe when the series returns on December 7-8 at Doomben. 

“Jockeys are always competitive, with or without the jerseys,” McGillivray said.

“But when you pull the state colours on pride comes into it. I will be back out there trying to win it for Queensland again this year.”

McGillivray and his partner Aimee became parents for the first time in April and celebrated their wedding at Eagle Farm earlier this month.

They have plans to raise young son Max in the Sunshine State, and for obvious reasons.

“I was born in Singapore but started my apprenticeship here (with Craig Smith) and I have enjoyed it very much,” he said.

“I’ll be cementing myself here for the years to come. It’s a great place to have a young family. You can’t beat the weather and the lifestyle … I think it’s a great place to raise a child.” 

Now entering its fourth year the Origin Jockey Series has become an event both punters and competitors alike look forward to each summer, but none more so than the former champion apprentice.

Just as in-form players are rewarded with Origin selection in rugby league terms, so too was McGillivray last year, who entered the series in a purple patch of form.

Having established his connection with then promising two-year-old Ef Troop and rising sprinter Havasay, it was hoped McGillivray would be the new teammate to help Origin ‘veteran’ Byrne secure a maiden title for Queensland.

While the pair had a tough week on the track, McGillivray soaked up the experience of testing his skills against some of Australia’s best.

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“It was great fun and very competitive. There’s obviously top jocks from all the states and NZ as well. It’s a great experience and I would compare it to riding in a black-type race because they’re such competitive affairs,” McGillivray said.

McGillivray said he also spent time learning from legends involved in the series such as Craig Newitt, Dwayne Dunn, Michael Rodd and Tye Angland.

“Being able to spend time with some of those jockeys, playing golf with Dunny and speaking with people like Craig Newitt will make it a lot easier for me if I was ever going to travel interstate. At least I will have ridden with some of the top jockeys and will feel a bit more comfortable asking them questions,” he said.

This year’s series will be staged over two days at the Brisbane Racing Club (Doomben) with the popular Friday (December 7) twilight meeting kicking off proceedings, before a metropolitan race day highlighted by the Brisbane Handicap on Saturday (December 8).

The condensed version last year proved popular with punters nationwide and with an even more condensed program this year, is expected to generate further wagering growth for the period.

THE TRAINER – TONY GOLLAN (TAB SUMMER CROWNS $50,000 TRAINER’S BONUS WINNER)

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Tony Gollan was preparing to leave the Gold Coast Turf Club as the sun set on Magic Millions Day 2018 when a phone call turned what was a good day into one he won’t forget.

After accumulating the most points in races across the four Summer Crowns Series race days, Gollan walked off the track and across the road to the Magic Millions Yearling Sales with $50,000 extra in his pocket after winning the Summer Crowns Trainers’ Bonus as part of the $1.6 million on offer across the carnival.

“I didn’t go in expecting to win it with so many good southern and local trainers competing. It was quite a thrill really. I didn’t concentrate on it much until the final day, but it was certainly rewarding at the end,” he said.

Gollan joined Corey Brown ($50,000 Summer Crowns Jockeys’ Bonus) as an inaugural winner of the cash prize, bringing an end to what was a dream run for the trainer.

Gollan looked set for a big carnival when promising two-year-olds Ef Troop and Outback Barbie entered the fray during the spring. What unfolded over the ensuing months was nothing short of a dream.

“The highlight was definitely on Lough Neagh Stakes day when I had four winners (I’m A Rippa, Ef Troop, Outback Barbie and Most Important) but I suppose I’m A Rippa was the horse that put his hand up during the carnival and set himself on a trajectory toward the Winter Carnival,” he said.

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Gollan said it was a credit to Queensland racing how the carnival had developed in the past three seasons, highlighting the attention it is now paid by southern trainers.

“Where it sits is a little bit tricky but there is the lure of that big grand final day you call Magic Millions,” he said.

“The bonuses for jockeys, trainers and owners make for a great carnival right the way through leading into the big day. I suppose it is a good launch-pad for horses depending on what you do. You could push on to the Autumn Carnival or take a break and set your sights on the winter here.

The summer appears to be the leading trainer’s time to shine, with a number of his most promising horses resuming late last month including Light Up The Room, Shamurt and Snicki Minaj.

Sheseeseverything, a horse also highlighted by jockey Matt McGillivray as one to watch this summer, is being targeted at races such as the Tattersall’s Classic, Just Now Quality and The Nudgee.

“She’s back doing a bit now and is cruising along towards the fillies and mares races. She profiles similarly to I’m A Rippa at this time last year and her Grand Final, if she improves enough through the summer, will be the Magic Millions F&M race,” Gollan said. 

THE OWNER – DR GEORGE CLEGG (TAB SUMMER CROWNS $500,000 3YO BONUS WINNER)

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Dr Clegg is one who can vouch for the excitement of the Queensland Summer Racing Carnival and Magic Millions Race Day.

Clegg and his wife Carol, each own a five per cent share in star Sydney sprinter Pierata who took all before him last summer.

The Greg Hickman-trained Pierata first came to Queensland for the Brisbane winter carnival in 2016 finishing third in the Group 2 Sires’ Produce Stakes at Eagle Farm before a midfield finish behind Queenslander Capital Gain in the Group 1 J J Atkins at Doomben.

Hickman and Pierata’s other part-owners liked their Queensland experience so much they returned six months later for last year’s Brisbane summer carnival.

It’s history now that Pierata collected a $1.8 million payday with his win in the Gold Coast Magic Millions 3YO Guineas which also featured a $500,000 Summer Crowns bonus for winning three of five selected races over the summer.

All of the bonuses on offer including the $500,000 for two-year-old and three-year-old horses returns this year, with $400,000 up for grabs for sprinters.

Clegg believes the Summer Crown bonuses are an exciting concept which makes the summer carnival that much more appealing to interstate owners and trainers.

“The bonus prizemoney is just fantastic,” he said.

“Pierata walked away with $1.8 million in prizemoney the day he won the Magic Millions Guineas and Corey Brown won $50,000.

“It was a very lucrative payday and an extraordinary amount of money. It propelled Pierata into a different class of horse.”

Clegg said he had never been as excited on a racetrack as he was on Magic Millions day.

“We were pretty excited on Magic Millions day and full of anticipation,” Clegg said.

“There were 19 other partners there on the day and a lot of their guests and we were all jumping up and down when he won.

“We sure did have a party afterwards.”

Clegg first met Hickman the night the Sydney trainer bought Pierata at the Magic Millions sales.

“Greg has had tremendous success at the Magic Millions carnival,” he said.

“Mr brother was a part owner of Private Secretary which ran second in the mare’s race in 2016 then she came back and won it the following year.

“The night she won Greg bought Pierata and that’s how I first met him and took a share.”

Clegg hopes to be back at the Magic Millions carnival this summer.

“I’ve got a share in Ef Troop’s full brother which has just been named, Nuclear Summit, and is trained by Gary Moore in Sydney,” he said.

“He looks an exciting type and if all goes to plan we hope to be back again this summer.”

WHAT’S NEW? – RACING QUEENSLAND GM THOROUGHBRED RACING SIMON STOUT

Despite wet weather playing a role across the 2017/18 Summer Carnival strong wagering growth was recorded across the same period compared to a year prior.

And, with some minor tweaks to the 2018/19 program, Racing Queensland’s aim will be to drive this growth even further to help secure greater returns for industry.

Racing Queensland GM Thoroughbred Racing Simon Stout said some new additions and minor changes to the program for this summer were aimed at generating more racing fans and spreading awareness of the carnival across the state.

“To provide all Queensland participants with the opportunity to experience the thrill of the carnival, the inaugural Country Cups Challenge Final will be held on George Moore Stakes Day at Doomben on December 1,” he said. 

“The new series complements the highly successful Battle of the Bush, which was a welcome addition to Tattersall’s Tiara day and gives Queensland’s country trainers another chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Waterhouse, Waller and Weir.

“The TAB Origin Jockey Series will also be condensed to two days at the Brisbane Racing Club (Doomben) to ensure some of Australasia’s best jockeys can compete for their respective states or countries across the entire series and to maximise on promotional opportunities.”

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Most recently we’ve seen summer stars Sunlight and Pierata enjoy success during the Melbourne and Sydney spring carnivals, with Houtzen, Crack Me Up and more also eyeing riches down south. The carnival is also expected to provide another pointer towards the 2019 Queensland Winter Racing Carnival.

“This year signals the inaugural running of the Eagle Way 3YO Stayers Series for trainers seasoning their horses, with a view to the three-year-old classics during the winter in 2019,” Mr Stout said.

“It could be argued that this carnival has something for every stakeholder, with bonuses for trainers, jockeys and owners on offer, and one of the world’s great yearling sales for breeders, the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.”

THE GRAND FINALE – BARRY BOWDITCH ($10 MILLION MAGIC MILLIONS RACE DAY – 12 JAN)

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Securing the tag of Australia’s first-ever $10 million meeting back in 2016, the jewel in the Summer Carnival crown is undoubtedly the Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Race Day.

The nine-race card is the culmination of the two-month lead in period and provides a ‘grand final’ for Magic Millions sale graduates at the picturesque Gold Coast Turf Club.

In what will be his first Magic Millions day as the new Managing Director, Barry Bowditch is the man in charge of a 10-day festival that celebrates all that is good about the thoroughbred.

“The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Race Day is the world’s richest incentive-based race day with the Magic Millions brand renowned around the world for being the innovator in the unique sales-based racing concept,” he said.

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Mr Bowditch said there was something for everyone over the unique carnival.

“The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Carnival has everything from high fashion to high stakes,” he said.

“Whether it’s attending the polo to rub shoulders with the stars, attending the race day to cheer on your favourite horse, or better yet, having a runner on the day, nothing will compare with your experience of The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Carnival.”  

Kicking off with the celebrations again this summer is the Magic Millions Polo on Sunday, January 6, followed by the all-important barrier draw on Tuesday, January 8, on the sands of Surfers Paradise beach.

Premium yearlings from across Australia will go under the hammer from Wednesday (January 9) through to Tuesday (January 15), with the highlight for racegoers taking place on Saturday, January 12.

The main events on the card include The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions 2YO Classic (Restricted Listed – SW) with $2,000,000 in prize money and, the Gold Coast Magic Millions 3YO Guineas (Restricted Listed – SW&P) also worth $2,000,000.

The support card is nothing short of outstanding with the;

  • $1m Magic Millions Cup (RL – Quality Handicap)
  • $1m Magic Millions Snippets (SW&P)
  • $1m Magic Millions Trophy (Quality Handicap)
  • $1m Magic Millions Fillies and Mares (SW&P)
  • $1m Magic Millions QTIS Open (Quality Handicap)
  • $250k Magic Millions Country Cup (Qlty Hcp, special cond.)
  • $250k Magic Millions Maiden Plate (SW 3YOs & UP)