Magic Millions race day was 'real coup' for Murray Bridge

The richest horse race ever run in regional South Australia has drawn a big crowd to the city's racing club for its inaugural running in 2021.

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Ngareta Cronin, Estelle Fletcher and Melissa Pearce, of Murray Bridge, soak up the sunshine on Magic Millions race day. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

The first Magic Millions race day in Murray Bridge has been hailed a success by the chairman of the city’s racing club.

The function centre at the Gifford Hill racecourse was booked out for the day, filled to its capacity of 355 people, and another couple of hundred perched beneath umbrellas or in marquees.

With about $500,000 worth of prizes up for grabs on the track, chairman John Leahy said it was also the richest race day in Murray Bridge Racing Club’s history, and believed to be the richest ever run in regional South Australia.

“We’ve never had anything near this,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ve had over $200,000 on a race day, so to have half a million is fantastic.”

It was “a real coup” that the club had taken the annual event from Morphettville, he said – and an encouraging sign of the racing industry’s support for Murray Bridge.

Magic Millions managing director Barry Bowditch said the move to the Bridge had been a fantastic experience.

He hoped Magic Millions could continue to build up the event in years to come.

John Moloney-trained favourite Scorched Earth took out the $202,000 feature race, a classic for two-year-old horses, winning by five lengths.

Owners’ representative Peter Comley described the win as a great thrill.

“I came to South Australia in 1981 and won a race with one of the horses I brought from New Zealand, at the old (Murray Bridge) track,” he said.

“I’d never won another race here since.”

The only local horse in the race, Karen Byrnes’ Our Double Choice, finished back in 10th place.

Associates of Scorched Earth line up alongside the filly after her win in the 2021 Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Three- and four-year-old classic will be added to race fixture in 2022

Meanwhile, Racing SA announced in the lead-up to the event that a second major race – a classic for three- and four-year-olds sold at Magic Millions sales – would become a fixture on the same race day next year.

The race will be run over 1400 metres for $120,000 in prizes.

Racing SA chief executive officer Nick Redin hoped the race would encourage more owners to look for stayers at Magic Millions sales.

“We know that a significant number of two-year-old Magic Millions runners are bred for speed and run accordingly, but this new race promises to provide a different option for some horses, their owners and trainers,” he said.

“It gives incentive to buyers at the upcoming sale to look for horses that will get over further distances.”

Magic Millions managing director Barry Bowditch said the new race would turn the Magic Millions race day into a true showcase event.

Veterinary clinic will add to racecourse's appeal

Finally, Racing SA also announced its latest investment in the Gifford Hill racecourse.

It will build an equine veterinary clinic at the track, complementing the sand training track it opened in November and the equine pool and new stables that are on the way.

Mr Redin said the clinic was another step towards Murray Bridge becoming an integral centre for racing in SA.

“This vet clinic, together with the previously announced stables and state-of-the-art equine pool, plus the uphill sand track, helps us deliver a full on-course service at Murray Bridge and gives the facility an even better chance of attracting new trainers to our state,” Mr Redin said.

“It is a key part of growing horse numbers in South Australia which, in turn, will drive further investment and growth in the industry.”

Ian Marwood, of Kingston SE, third from left, celebrates his birthday at the races with George Brice-Marwood, Susan Brice and Lily Brice-Marwood. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

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