MAGIC MILLION OWNERS SLAM BLIGH GOVERNMENT

MAGIC MILLION OWNERS SLAM BLIGH GOVERNMENT

RETAIL king Gerry Harvey today took a swipe at the Queensland State Government for ‘wasting $11 million' in promoting the Super GP and not investing more in the Gold Coast’s iconic Magic Millions racing carnival.

A frustrated Harvey made the comments ahead of the opening of the 2010 BMW Magic Millions thoroughbred auctions while he and fellow co-owner John Singleton announced a campaign to make the Magic Millions 2YO Classic the richest horse race in the world.

Harvey challenged the Bligh Government to match dollar for dollar the US$5million prize money he and mate Singleton donate yearly to the event. He also criticised the ramshackle handling of the Super GP event.

“The Indy or whatever it’s called now is a poor investment by comparison,” he says.

“We’d knock off the Arabs, we’d knock off the Melbourne cup and we’d be the talk of the world. But I know we’re not going to do that because we (decision makers) don’t make big, bold moves, we make little moves to be cautious so we don’t get into trouble.”

Minister for Tourism and Fair Trading Peter Lawlor, confirmed the State Government will ‘consider a multi-million dollar deal for the Queensland Racing Industry’ but stopped short of committing to a timeframe.

"Consultation with the industry is continuing for a single control body to prioritise this funding and I would imagine the Gold Coast Turf Club, home of the Magic Million would be top of the list,” says Lawlor.

"While I am happy to meet with Gerry Harvey and John Singleton about the future of Magic Millions, the priority of the funding will be left up to the single racing control body.”

Harvey placed emphasis on an independent report finalised last September that concluded the Magic Millions carnival had an immediate economic and social contribution of $52million to the state.

“Who knows what the real total (including tourism and the effects on Queensland racing) would be. Is it 80, 100, or $120million? Take your guess,” he says.

While holding up a list of 60 high profile international buyers present at this year’s carnival, Harvey described the international flavour like the Olympics.

“And these are not tourists. They are people here to buy horses and they are their country’s best,” he says.

Singleton meanwhile backed Harvey’s claim that the Magic Millions 2YO Classic ‘could be the richest race in the world’.

“We’ll put up $3, 4 or 5 million. We already have and we’ll do it again. We’re putting in our own money and we’re not getting any government assistance out of it,” says Singleton.

Singleton also confirmed the event would stay in Queensland, even if the owners received funding from interstate.

Initial plans to redevelop the Magic Millions site at the Gold Coast Turf Club include upgrading the racecourse, access points and entertainment facilities.

“We’re punching well above our weight and are not going to sit still and not move. We (QLD) would deserve an absolute flogging if we didn’t take advantage of this,” says Harvey.

The first sale of the year was claimed by local Alex Johnston of the Thoroughbred Club of Australia, Gold Coast branch, who picked up a handy filly for $45,000.

“I was attracted to the way she’s put together and how I think she’ll fill out. It went a big higher than I would have liked, but I got the one I wanted,” says Johnston.

At the time of going to print, sales from the first day have totalled around $6.5 million at the half way mark and while high profile international buyers from Hong Kong and Japan have impressed, the highest single yearling went to Victoria’s Mark Pilkington Bloodstock for $300,000.

The 2010 BMW Magic Millions carnival concludes Thursday January 14.

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