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The Magic Millions Classic – An Early Appraisal with Chris Scholtz

12 December, 2023

December is a special time of the year in so many ways but in racing in means just one thing! The countdown is on to the Gold Coast extravaganza that is the Magic Millions carnival.

The Magic Millions Classic – An Early Appraisal

December is a special time of the year in so many ways but in racing in means just one thing! The countdown is on to the Gold Coast extravaganza that is the Magic Millions carnival.

January 13 is the day it will all come together for the owners and trainers who invested in yearlings offered at Magic Millions sales, their spending driven by the desire to unearth a horse good enough to compete for the millions on offer at one of the world’s richest race meetings.

The Magic Millions is promoted as the world’s richest sales based incentive race series, open only to horses sold or passed in at the variety of MM sales held around Australia each year.

Throughout the season there are host of rich Magic Millions races run all around the country for these eligible horses. But there is only one grand final and that’s the $14 million race day staged at the Gold Coast in January.

In 2024 the Magic Millions program expands to 11 races – a record for a feature race day in Australia. It features two races worth $3 million each, six $1 million events and three others worth $500,000.

The pinnacle events are the $3 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) and $3 million Magic Millions 3YO Guineas (1400m), races that are worthy of Group 1 status but cannot be recognised as elite black type events due to their restricted entry conditions.

While every race on the Magic Millions program is a feature in its own right the 2YO Classic remains the centrepiece by its very nature, being the race the brand was built around when the radical sales/race concept was launched in the 1980s.

It took only few short years for those who doubted the longevity of the Magic Millions to be silenced, the combination of a major yearling sale and feature race day staged on the Glitter Strip that is Queensland’s Gold Coast at the height of the Australian summer proving an irresistible lure for local and overseas racing participants.

The MM 2YO Classic has long been recognised as one of the most important juvenile races in the country.

It boasts an honour roll of winners who went on to establish themselves not only as G1 stars on the track and but as successful sires and valuable broodmares at stud – think Snippets, General Nediym, Testa Rossa, Brave Warrior, Capitalist, Bradbury’s Luck, Dancer’s Joy, Lovely Jubly, Bold Promise, Sunlight, Mimi Lebrock, Karuta Queen etc.

The worth of the MM Classic to the industry is further underlined by those that finished in the minor placings – colts and fillies of such magnitude as Snitzel, Not A Single Doubt, Belle Du Jour and Tristanagh.

With a month to the big day the race is on to qualify for a start in the MM 2YO Classic, the final field determined by prizemoney with the order of entry set to undergo many changes in the remaining weeks due to the various options open to eligible youngsters.

As of December 12 the leading MM Classic qualifiers by prizemoney were the Victorian winners ARABIAN SUMMER ($189,200), ENEEZA ($141,750) and DUBLIN DOWN ($135,590) ahead of the Queensland-trained pair BARBIE”S SISTER ($132,400) and MISHANI ALOHA ($113,800).

This may seem an anomaly considering the big prizemoney on offer in Sydney. It also is at odds with the latest betting for the MM Classic as price assessors have three youngsters who have done their racing in Sydney heading the market order.

STORM BOY, a runaway Rosehill winner on debut for the Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott team, is the ruling favourite despite unconfirmed reports that he is going to bypass a trip to the Gold Coast and be saved for his autumn campaign.

If that is the case it indicates Waterhouse and Bott have a preference for STRAIGHT CHARGE, second in the Breeders Plate at Randwick at the start of the season, as their number one seed for the MM Classic.

He has been burning the tracks in recent trials and the market reflects his potential as he is sharing the second line of betting with SPYWIRE, another impressive Sydney debut winner from the powerful Ciaron Maher/David Eustace team.

SPYWIRE’s place in the market will depend on how he performs in Wednesday’s Wyong MM Classic, a noted preliminary to the big dance at the Gold Coast. The Wyong field contains several other highly regarded Gold Coast candidates including HIGHNESS (Peter & Paul Snowden) and TOQUE, yet another unraced trial star from the Waterhouse/Bott stable.

I am very wary of the Snitzel colt HIGHNESS. He finished only sixth in the Breeders Plate on debut but his trials leave no doubt he is above average and he could be the horse to turn the market on its head with an impressive performance at Wyong.

TOQUE is a typical Waterhouse/Bott youngster who has been fast in her trials and is trained up to jump and run on debut.

STRAIGHT CHARGE is not nominated to race this week but needs to reappear soon as his current prizemoney ($46,250) from his Breeders Plate placing leaves him only 17th on the latest order of entry and well short of what is going to be required to secure a berth in the MM Classic field.

It’s a show of faith in his ability that Waterhouse and Bott are timing his run to the Gold Coast through one of the many race options that are available to 2YOs in Sydney and Queensland over the Xmas/New Year period.

While Wednesday’s Wyong Classic will have a considerable impact on MM betting STRAIGHT CHARGE will certainly be the new favourite for the Gold Coast Classic if he runs up to his trials when he eventually gets to the races.

The Victorian 2YO form is strong this season. COLEMAN, BODYGUARD and KARAVAS were other impressive winners over the spring carnival but the MM Classic market reflects the view that it needs to be tested against the Sydney form.

ARABIAN SUMMER went to the top of the MM qualifying list when his race experience gave him an edge on a heavy track in last Saturday’s $250,000 Ballarat 2YO Classic where he beat a small field of largely untested rivals.

He had been placed in black type races at Caulfield and Flemington in his first two starts, his Ballarat win only enhancing the standing of the winners of those races COLEMAN and KARAVAS in this season’s overall 2YO ratings assessments.

Opinions are split over whether STORM BOY or the impressive Melbourne filly BOLD BASTILLE, a big winner in fast time of her only start over 1000m at Moonee Valley in October for the Hayes stable, rates as the best 2YO to race this season to date.

BOLD BASTILLE displayed sustained speed in her win while STORM BOY stamped his class with above average sectionals over the last 400m.

Their wins overtook earlier race performances including Sydney’s Breeders Plate and Gimcrack Stakes, events that are traditionally the early benchmarks for 2YO form.

Those races, won by ESPIONAGE and MANAAL, rated below their average this year but there are expectations that the form behind them will hold up. That has already been substantiated by ERNO’S CUBE, another Maher/Eustace runner who was only eighth in the Gimcrack Stakes, posting good figures to win the Max Lees Classic at Newcastle at her next outing.

Other youngsters rating highly on current standings are Melbourne’s Merson Cooper Stakes winner ENEEZA and the Sydney winners SHANGRI LA EXPRESS, SOVEREIGN HILL and ODINSON, another Maher/Eustace youngster who came off a debut placing at Flemington to overwhelm his rivals at Randwick last Saturday.

Looking beyond the obvious there are several promising types who performed well behind the youngsters at the top of the rankings who could quickly overtake the leaders.

There is also high anticipation about the potential of some unraced 2YOs who have been turning heads in trials in both NSW and Victoria – mark down the name AMAZING EAGLE (Gerald Ryan/Sterling Alexiou) as one out of the box

If there is one constant about this season’s 2YO results it is the depth of talent being presented by the Waterhouse/Bott stable.

Gai and Adrian have four of the top 10 youngsters in my current rankings with several of their stablemates in the next 10.

2YO RANKINGS – December 12

BOLD BASTILLE

STORM BOY

SHANGRI LA EXPRESS

ODINSON

ESPIONAGE

COLEMAN

ENEEZA

KARAVAS

SPYWIRE

STRAIGHT CHARGE

SOVEREIGN HILL

BODYGUARD

MANAAL

DUBLIN DOWN

ARABIAN SUMMER

ERNO’S CUBE

MAGIC MILLIONS CLASSIC - LATEST BETTING

5.00 STORM BOY

6.00 SPYWIRE; STRAIGHT CHARGE

8.00 BODYGUARD

11.00 AMAZING EAGLE; ARABIAN SUMMER; BARBIES SISTER

13.00 COLEMAN; ERNOS CUBE

15.00 ENEEZA

17.00 TOQUE

26.00 ASTAPOR; CANARA; CASTANYA; CLEAN ENERGY; DEPUTIZE; DEVINE FORCE; DUBLIN DOWN; FORCE RED; HIGHNESS; INVINCIBLE MADISON; KING OF ROSEAU; PARKOUR; POSTER GIRL; VOLATILE; WOLFGANG

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