Magic Millions mixes high heels and thongs

Horses race on the beach before the Magic Millions Barrier Draw. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images Rachael Finch, Zara Phillips, Francesca Cumani and Katie Page-Harvey watch the horses race on the beach before the Magic Millions Barrier Draw. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Nanjing Night Net

It’s horses on the beach, it must be the Magic Millions.

Boardies next to chinos, high heels next to thongs, the trademark racing polo shirts next to singlets and bare chests.

In Surfers Paradise this eclectic mix is nothing new, but in few places can a racing event bring together such a group of people on a Tuesday morning, from heavy-hitting racing identities to local residents on their way to a daily swim.

In a teal beachside VIP marquee, owners and celebrities nibble on breakfast snacks before moving to the sand to watch six thoroughbreds race along the beach.

Onlookers and media alike flock to Magic Millions patron and English royal Zara Phillips, back at the carnival after the birth of her son.

Owners wear straw cowboy hats and carry giant cards with their horse’s colours and names ready to wade through the crowd and draw their barrier.

The showmanship of it all fits the location, which is postcard perfect after an ominous-looking morning.

A marble and a Perspex block with a numbered place and a starting position in Saturday’s carnival prompted cheers or gasps, depending on the numbers pulled out.

The Magic Millions has grown in stature in recent years and most notably shows an increased female presence, with Phillips as patron, Channel 7’s Francesca Cumani playing a key role in the coverage of the week-long event and an incentive for women to part-own horses, with bonuses of up to $500,000 for a first-four finish.

One of the world’s top thoroughbred trainers, Criquette Head-Maarek is visiting the Gold Coast for the first time.

Head-Maarek has a long and decorated association with horse training, the third generation of her family to train a winner of prestigious French race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and a two-time winner of the event in her own right.

There are plenty of comparisons to be drawn between Head-Maarek and Australian trainer Gai Waterhouse, who has a horse in Saturday’s two-year-old main event, but their ties go well beyond their roles as female pioneers in racing.

“In the old days, my dad used to bring jockeys from Australia into France and my brother, one of the best jockeys in France (Freddy Head), he came and worked for Tommy Smith, Gai Waterhouse’s father, for a year,” she said.

Head-Maarek says Australia is only beginning its journey to include more women in racing but prizes like the Magic Millions placing incentives were moves in the right direction.

“I think it’s a good way to do it to have clubs just for women or women owners,” she said.

“In our country we’ve got quite a few but here it’s still quite new.”

It wasn’t a great morning for Waterhouse, whose horse Carriages drew barrier 21 but the odds of Les Ross-trained Frequendly have shortened after it drew barrier four.

Perignon part-owner Sylvana Surace is embarking on her first Magic Millions foray.

“It’s amazing. There’s nothing like it,” she said.

“There’s no better occasion. We’re over the moon, super excited, all of the above.”

With the first sales of the Magic Millions kicking off on Wednesday, Head-Maarek said buyers should be looking at the way the horses move.

“I like a horse who walks well,” she said.

“That’s what I like very much. A deep girth, good shoulders, a strong behind and if the engine is there, well, you’ve got a runner.”

The feature race of the carnival, the $2 million Magic Millions two-year-old classic will be run at 3.25pm on Saturday January 10.

Barrier numbers for the two-year-old classic:

1 – Claudia Jean 2 – Flamenco Girl (emergency) 3 – Le Chef 4 – Frequendly 5 – Wicked Intent 6 – Single Gaze 7 – Zoutenant 8 – Wicked Investment (emergency) 9 – Racy 10 – Saga of the Storm 11 – Perignon 12 – Right of Way (emergency) 13 – Star of Night (emergency) 14 – Real Good (emergency) 15 – Madotti 16 – Flamenco Girl 17 – Pepperano 18 – Surf Seeker 19 – Miss Idyllic 20 – Old Trieste 21 – Carriages

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.