RECENTLY retired rugby league superstar Billy Slater has signed as an ambassador for the 2019 The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Carnival.
Innisfail-born Slater – a former trackwork jockey for trainer Gai Waterhouse – will play in the Celebrity v Jockeys game ahead of fellow Magic Millions Ambassadors Zara Phillips, international Polo legend Nacho Figueras and former leading Australian player Rob Archibald playing in the feature game at Pacific Fair Magic Millions Polo on Sunday, January 6.
He’ll saddle up again on Tuesday, January 8 to ride in the Thoroughbred beach run – that sees Australia’s leading jockeys thundering along Surfers Paradise beach from 6am with thousands of people watching – ahead of the barrier draw for Magic Millions Raceday.
On Tuesday night Slater will join the ‘who’s who’ of Australian and international racing at the Magic Millions Launch Party on the Surfers Paradise foreshore and from Wednesday it will all be about business, with Woodside Park Stud presenting a yearling on behalf of Slater Thoroughbreds at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale for the first time.
Magic Millions co-owner Katie Page said Magic Millions wasted no time approaching Slater about becoming an ambassador after his retirement from rugby league.
“Billy is the perfect fit for Magic Millions and we’re delighted to welcome him as an ambassador for 2019. Billy's life-long love of horses is now his post-footy career. Billy has always read the play, and this could be his best move yet,” Page said.
“I think many people are aware of Billy’s history with the thoroughbred industry, but few have seen him ride. We can’t wait to see his extraordinary athleticism and instinctive competitiveness kick in when he joins some of the best in the business during the Pacific Fair Magic Millions Polo and during the beach race at The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Barrier Draw,” she said.
Two great passions
WITH 2019 being his first MM Carnival, Billy Slater revealed he’s always had two great passions in life – rugby league and horses.
“Now that my footy career is over, breeding horses has taken over my drive to succeed. I didn’t ride much while playing footy so I’m a bit nervous about getting back in the saddle. I’ve got a strong competitive streak, so I’ll be fitting in a few lessons before playing in the polo and to prepare for the beach race. With our first yearling – a Wandjina/Inishowen colt – going through the sales I’ll also be taking a very keen interest in all the auction ring action keeping an eye on what prices are and working out our own values,” he said.
With The Star Gold Coast becoming naming rights partner of the Carnival for the first time in 2019, The Star Entertainment Group Managing Director and CEO Matt Bekier believes the foundations are in place for a compelling 10 days.
“Magic Millions is a quintessential Gold Coast event and the appointment of an Australian sporting superstar, Billy Slater, as an Ambassador for the Magic Millions Carnival will further amplify that popularity,” he said.
Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones says Magic Millions is a unique event that they are proud to partner. “It’s great to see the addition of a great Queenslander, in Billy Slater, to a great Queensland event like the Magic Millions.
“Magic Millions is crucial when it comes to growing Queensland’s major events calendar which will pump $780m into the state’s economy this year and continues to enhance our reputation as Australia’s best destination for major events,” she said.
Baker Boy collects Challenge dough
THE inaugural 1600m Country Cups Challenge final at Doomben on Saturday, December 1 has been taken out by Baker Boy, with the silverware heading to Gatton trainer Brenton Andrew.
The final brought together qualifiers from 16 Country Cups held across Queensland between September and November and complemented the inaugural Battle of the Bush Series, which brought 16 sprinters from the country to the city on Sky Racing Tattersall’s Tiara Day held on Saturday, June 23.
Miles-based galloper Fab’s Cowboy had the rare distinction of being top weight for both finals. Although unplaced in the Battle Of The Bush, Fab’s Cowboy justified his high rating by finishing second by 0.4 lengths in the Cups Challenge carrying 7kg more than the winner and third place-getter Rockhampton-based Green Empire.
Racing Queensland webnews reports that after missing the start at his last run, 8YO gelding Baker Boy was originally pegged as second reserve and only gained entry after scratchings.
But it was meant to be for Andrew and a loyal group of owners finally got their first city winner. Though Baker Boy hadn’t been in great form leading into the contest, Andrew said he knew the 8YO had it in him after strong runs last preparation.
“He ran within a length of Bergerac last prep at the Sunshine Coast who later won in Sydney and if he reproduced something like that he’d be hard to beat,” he said.
By Statue Of Liberty (USA) from the Flying Spur mare Gaiety making him a half-brother to five other winners, Baker Boy now has 11 wins and 18 placings from 73 starts while the $42,7000 took his prizemoney earnings past $200,000. Seven of his wins have been in Queensland after beginning his racing career in Victoria where he won at Mornington (3) and Bairnsdale.
A passionate horseman, Andrew said it had been a rough year for his operation, but was glad races like the Battle of The Bush and the Country Cups Challenge were shining a light on the industry in its entirety.
“It’s been a tough year. My wife Billie-Rose (Derbyshire) – who’s a jockey – and I had to open up our own chaff business to support the financial costs of the stable which we’ve cut down from 10 horses to six. I won the Eastern Downs Trainer of the Year last season with 22 races and we were still feeling the pinch financially. To come to town and win a race like this is not only a thrill, but also shines a light on all the country trainers and horses that make a living from the industry,” he said.
GOOD guys do finish first! When I was putting together this week’s column I thought I’d better check the results on the Racing Australia website of the 800m Cannonball Series final held at Kilcoy on Saturday, December 1.
The winner was 7YO mare Zouzoukakia trained by Toowoomba-based Kevin Kemp. Then I noted the owner. It was Con Searle – president of the Kilcoy Racing Club for the past 10 years who also bred the mare.
What’s more, it was the mare’s third attempt at winning the final having being placed third at her two previous attempts. Also, in winning the race, it took her prizemoney earnings past $100,000.
Far more important than the Cannonball win, December 2018 marks two special occasions for Con. On December 12 he celebrates 50 years’ marriage to wife Jenny who is club treasurer and race-day manager and he also received his bookmaker’s licence 50 years ago.
Con has both prolific and professional in pre and post publicity for his beloved ‘Moonee Valley of the North’ Kilcoy club so I can only guess it was modesty that precluded him from issuing his usual post-race press release providing details of placegetters and sponsors.
Con names most of his horses with the prefix Zou so it seemed a natural fit when on a visit to the Darwin Cup race meeting he came across a Greek dish named Soutzoukakai (baked meatballs in tomato sauce).
By Top Echelon from the Sequalo mare Jawarra Elsie, Zouzoukakia was originally trained by Natalie McCall for three unplaced starts before moving on to Kevin Kemp who has prepared her for seven wins and six placings.
Con was effusive in his praise for Top Echelon whose progeny include Group 1 Stradbroke winner River Lad (trained by Natalie McCall) and Sydney and Melbourne Group 2 winner Our Boy Malachi.
“The older his progeny get, the better they get,” he said.