DESPITE a high Australian dollar and a weak top-end market, Magic Millions sales still totalled around $72 million.

A strong second week resulted in a satisfactory overall result for the Magic Millions 2011 Yearling Auctions, down 4 per cent on last year ($75 million).

Managing director Stephen Silk says a drop-off in international buyers and flood disruptions created the slight deficit, but remains pleased with the ‘strong result’.

“Once we take Sunday into account, where there was an extra million dollars up on last year, we might be down about $3 or $4 million, so it’s certainly picked up a little bit since the select four sessions last week,” he says.

“It’s met with our expectations given the circumstances with the high Australian dollar and the impact it’s had on the international buyers, but overall with the clearest rate around 81 per cent we are pleased with the outcome and the result.”

International buyers dropped from 20 per cent in 2010 to15 per cent this year. Magic Millions’ regular stalwart Hong Kong Jockey Club still bought big, splashing around $2.5 million, while South Africa’s racing industry also spent big.

Colourful co-owner Gerry Harvey (pictured right) told Gold Coast Business News strong local demand in the mid-price bracket drove this year’s event.

“There is very strong demand for anything from $50,000 to $250,000, so (the industry) is not weak,” says the retail billionaire.

“Before the sales there were a lot of people thinking that with all the things that are happening, it might not be (so good). But the market was very strong; it was down but very marginally.

“The top end of the market is certainly a bit hard. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in New Zealand in Easter now; you would think it will be very strong because of the dollar.”

And while Silk admits his first year in the Magic Millions top job ‘has been really challenging’, long-term growth plans are on the cards.

“We’ve got to look at this whole precinct moving forward but that’s a long-term thing. There are certainly things that we can do to continue to improve,” he says.

“We’ve got to look at what we can do with the Gold Coast Turf Club, with Racing Queensland and Events Queensland to build this carnival bigger and stronger.That’s something we’d like to consider but there’s a lot of water that needs to go under the bridge before we can do that.”

“(This year) we were able to put the show on and that’s the best outcome for the Gold Coast and for Queensland because this event does generate a lot of local income for the tourism industry and the bloodstock industry.”

Victorian trainer Peter Moody bought the highest priced colt for $1.15M, beating last year’s biggest buy of $925,000. Race favourite and a $30,000 buy at the 2010 auctions Karuta Queen took out the 2YO Classic at the weekend.

Meanwhile, figures released today by Gold Coast Airport show a further boost to the region's tourism sector, with international travellers up by 16 per cent.

Almost 800,000 of the 5.4 million total movements recorded in 2010 were international passengers, leaving the remaining a record 4.7 million domestic passengers.

Gold Coast Business News February issue will feature an in-depth interview with Magic Millions managing director Stephen Silk, his future ambitions for the event and how he will achieve them.

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