From shorts to safari suits. A Mug Punter’s fashion tips for Magic Millions.

January 9, 2016

Singo refers to the Magic Millions carnival as the Melbourne Cup in shorts.

Great racing. Hectic parties. No top hats or waist coats.

It’s part of the magic. Winning plenty in a relaxed atmosphere. Count me in.

Sadly, not everyone has the fashion sense to make their way into the summer social pages. Fear not, because help is at hand.

Already, you are sniggering. Fashion advice from someone who once owned a safari suit. As a child.

Then there was the multi-coloured jumper Mum made we wear to the Youth Club disco. She was worried I’d be cold. Bless her. At least it matched my dance moves.

My cowboy boots were a big hit as a teenager. Huge heels, to fool the bloke at the bottle shop. A ploy that worked zero times.

Anyway, enough of my own disasters. It means I’m more than qualified to give a helping hand to those of you staring blankly at the wardrobe.

I’ve watched with interest, the photos from the week’s social functions that I wasn’t invited to. And there is a common theme. An image as handy as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Someone has decided that it’s cool for blokes to wear jackets and shorts. Together. You’ll see the photos, where they’re gazing off into the distance, with skinny hairless legs poking out of crisply pressed Joe Blorts.

Someone is taking the piss. It’s straight from the Fashion House of Gilligan’s Island.

Ladies, if you’re taking your man to the races today, set him straight. Jackets belong with pants. You can buy them as a package deal at Lowes.

If you must wear your dress shorts, a nice shirt is all you need. And say hi to Mary Ann for me.

At the other end of the scale, there are blokes out there right now, deciding which pair of footy shorts to wear this afternoon. The Premiership winning pair from the ’98 Gympie grand final, or the Broncos gift set from Christmas.

Boys, leave them in the drawer. No matter how good you think your pins are looking. Apart from turning female stomachs, they are also useless for holding betting tickets.

There has never been a Magic Millions Day under 40 degrees, so the tip is, dress appropriately. Unless you’re presenting a trophy, leave the tie at home. And for the welfare of those of us in the tote line with you, be generous with the deodorant.

That’s the best I can offer. Oh, and sensible shoes. In case you have to walk home. Yep, it’s been done before.

When it’s all said and done, I’m happy to be a fashion failure, if it means I might back a winner. I wonder if that old safari suit still fits? If I polish up the cowboy boots, it just might work..

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Important advice for anyone buying a horse at Magic Millions tonight.

January 11, 2014

The business of buying a horse is a serious one. It’s not a job for any idiot.

Unless, of course, the said idiot has spent the day having a ball at the Magic Millions. Then, anyone can have a crack.

I have ventured to the sales several times after the big race day. Like everyone else there, things have gone a little shabby. Ties end up a tad crooked. Girls are looking to throw their shoes.

It’s so tempting. All that magnificent horse flesh. Just waiting for a buyer. The one we’re drooling over, could be the million dollar winner next year.

Normally mature folk start talking syndicates. Sums are done, that will make no sense tomorrow. It all seems so easy.

I’ve told the story before of Singo buying one deep into a Saturday night, on the strength of the Queensland brew. Breeding meant nothing. It was just fun. Of course, the damage would be repaired come Sunday morning.

I could very well end up in that field of dreams tonight. Yet again. So here are the rules we will abide by.

First and foremost, don’t listen to any rules. If we went by the book, no-one would have owned Black Caviar or Makybe Diva.

Don’t even think about launching a bid, without a bucket of giggle juice on board. There are international gurus spending zillions while drinking sparkling water. How is that fun?

Pick a horse with a big arse. Nothing else matters. Spend way beyond your budget, if the filly reminds you of Beyonce.

Do nothing unless you’re surrounded by mates. There is every chance you’re about to make a huge mistake. They must be part of it.

At some stage, someone will say you’re all kinds of crazy. You will be told to walk away. Make sure you get them to sign a waiver, as you secretly buy that More Than Ready colt. It could be worth thousands in January next year.

If we’re swaying side by side when the last lot appears, I’ll consider joining forces. As long as you’re on the rum, with your best buds, drooling over a great big booty. And I’d appreciate if you could get the bill. I’m good for it, I promise.


How to buy a horse at the Magic Millions – don’t let them hear your knees knocking.

January 12, 2013

There’s nothing like bidding for the next Black Caviar.

It’s even more exciting when you have next to no money.

It was at the Magic Millions sale many years ago, that I nearly walked away with a superstar. For someone else.

It’s true that cool drinks had been involved. For much of the afternoon. Even so, I had no intention of raising my arm.

Singo, however, had other ideas. He was a part-owner of the sale at the time. And he had a plan. That I knew nothing about.

One of the joys of sharing drinks with the great man is the endless procession of interesting people who come to the table. The shout could include Johnny Raper and Dawn Fraser. Alan Jones might take a seat, opposite Tommy Raudonikis. Another old mate from footy days would be sipping a beer with the vet. Next to a journo who no-one knew.

The longer the day went, the more likely it was that Singo would add another horse to his stable. Often at the suggestion of one of his guests.

But not this one. He’d written the Lot number on his hand. It could still be seen, through smudgings from sauce and XXXX Gold.

That’s where things got crazier than usual. For reasons not fully known, the multi-millionaire decided that I should do the bidding for him.

At first, I thought he was joking. It made no sense. Especially given I had no cents. But he was in the middle of a deep conversation. Possibly about Newtown’s grand final loss or Strawberry Road’s overseas mission. So he needed someone to raise a hand. Apparently mine was the only one left.

I pretended to be cool, as the bids came in tens. Thousands, that is. From memory, my first entry into the auction was at 40-thousand. With a shaking hand, and a voice that resembled Minnie Mouse.

To add to the sheer lunacy of it all, I was bidding against someone at Bart Cumming’s table. Possibly for the Cups King himself. If only he knew.

It was when we reached 100-thousand dollars, that I started to consider what I’d gotten myself into. It seemed Singo was paying absolutely no attention to me. He could leave at any second. And I had all of ten dollars in my pocket.

I started to wonder how the conversation would go at home. ‘Dear, we need to sell the house. I just bought a yearling. Showed Bart how it’s done. The girls are always talking about wanting to go camping. Now they can LIVE in a tent’.

The auctioneer was looking directly at me. He wanted more. Others in the room were no doubt wondering who this badly dressed bloke was making such outrageous bids. My sweat started to drip into Dawn’s beer.

And just then, as I was contemplating making a run for it, never to show my face in racing circles again, Singo put me out of my misery. ‘No more’, he said, quietly but firmly. He’d been listening all along. With that, he went back into his conversation. And I slumped, exhausted, in my chair.

I’m certain no-one less qualified has ever gone so close to sealing such a deal. My inept performance was the source of much mirth later in the evening.

Singo went on to buy many more horses. Some superstars, some not. After that night, I’m pretty sure he did the bidding for all of them himself.

If you end up in the sales ring tonight, after Heza Jetsetter storms home to win the million dollar race for 3 year olds, remember the following tips, from someone who’s been at the coal face.

Speak loudly and clearly. Raise your hand high. Don’t be put off by those bidding against you. And if possible, have Singo’s wallet in your pocket.


Let the Magic begin. Why only racing’s bravest survive the Gold Coast’s biggest week.

January 7, 2012

It’s Magic Millions week. I hope you’ve been in training.

Seven wonderful days. Eight, if you joined them for the Sportsman’s Lunch at Northcliffe Surf club yesterday. Thank the Lord I didn’t know about that one.

Now, you need to forget all about those piddly one day racing events. Or the so-called Big Weekends. This festival of fun lasts a full week. Like that fancy one in Melbourne come November.

There are some highlights, that everyone will attend. The main race day of course. This time next week. Millions on the line, at a jam-packed Gold Coast Turf club.

The sale across the road attracts buyers from all over the world. Four unique days. Cashed up lovers of young thoroughbreds. Most of them will be wearing shorts.

Others will spend a few hours around the sale yard, enjoying cool drinks. There will be banter, and dreaming. Thinking of a winning purchase next year. I’ll be in that category.

True Magic Millions fans, however, have plenty more to do. No rest days. A survival of the fittest. With fresh tans.

Are you up for it? Of course you are. That’s the beauty of this week. Everyone is on holidays. Ready to play.

Today is Ladies Day at the track. A taste of things to come next weekend. With a tough eight race card.

The highlight is the Bat Out of Hell, a 900 metre scamper. I have never backed the winner of this race. Ever. Let’s move on.

Sunday and Monday are a little quiet. Good chance to inspect the yearlings at the sales complex. And for the girls, Monday’s ‘Magic in the Clouds’ luncheon is a must. Apparently.

Tuesday is when things gets hectic. Up early for the Barrier Draw, now being held at the beach. Good chance for a swim to shake the cobwebs off.

The Carbine Lunch starts at midday. At Jupiters Casino, of all places. Pat Welsh hosting. Don’t tell anyone, but he would actually pay them to do it.

Somehow, the party set must stay tidy, for the official launch that night. Invitation only. Mine must have been lost in the mail.

The boys get a sleep in the next day. Not the girls. They have to back up for a Sparkling Ladies lunch, at Palazzo Versace. Another must. Apparently.

Thursday is my favourite day at the sales. Day One. Always a buzz. The cool drinks will be icy, shared by some characters. Often into the evening.

The fairer sex get to show off their best headwear, at the Marriott’s Hats & High Tea. An annual favourite. I’ve been tempted to buy a fancy lid just to join them for a quality cuppa.

There’s a gala dinner on the Friday night. The rest of us will be doing the form. Trying to find some winners to pay for the previous few days.

Saturday is Race Day. The toughest will cross the road after the last, and finish things off at the sales. I’ve only ever made it that far once. Something about a false bid that caused a minor stir. I believe the ban might still be in place.

Is the week done? Who cares. That’s enough for most of us.

Let me know how you fare. If you make it to everything, I’ll push for some sort of award. Maybe a nice hat. It could be handy next year.


Singo on the warpath, and ready to win a Doncaster.

April 15, 2011

Singo wasn’t happy.

That trademark grin was missing. He was gunning for someone. Whoever was responsible for the goodies sitting on the Gold Coast Turf club bar.

A committeeman had decided that scones, bikkies and tea would do just fine for the launch of the new look Magic Millions company. Big mistake.

Singo wanted a beer. The clock had struck midday after all. And he wanted everyone else to have a beer with him.

The dispute was only ever going to end one way. The teapot was removed. The committeeman disappeared, ears ringing. Some icy beverages arrived. And so began the most fun racing enterprise in the land.

It was a highly entertaining press conference. There’d be dozens more laughs over the years, as Singo and buddies Gerry Harvey and Rob Ferguson set about revolutionising the crusty business of selling horses. That era ended when Harvey bought out his partners earlier this year.

On that first day, as the rest of the media chaps departed, Singo asked if I wanted another. I must have looked thirsty. With my work for the day done (yes, times have certainly changed) I decided it couldn’t hurt to get to know a multi-millionaire a little better. My cameraman took our tape back to the station, and I buckled in for a memorable afternoon.

Still seething at the Turf Club’s handling of his big day, we retreated to the Magic Millions office across the road. Perhaps not surprisingly, the fridge was full of cold tins. We took some chairs out of the boardroom, and plonked ourselves onto a small patch of grass outside.

Singo was excited about taking over the sales and race event with his good buddies. He outlined their grand plan. A sale to rival Inglis. A race day worth a fortune to owners and trainers. With a crowd dressed in shorts.

He oozed passion for racing. He re-told the story of chasing glory in France with Strawberry Road. His unique call of the race for 2KY, where he mentioned only one horse. And how he tried to strangle the Pommy jockey who slaughtered Australia’s big hope.

The pile of empties mounted. The early sectionals were deadly. We talked footy. His beloved Newtown. He was impressed when I told him of my dealings with the great Jack Gibson years before. He spoke in awe of mates like Johnny Raper and the late Peter Gallagher.

Staff would peer out through the sliding office doors, wondering who Singo’s latest victim was. We got louder. It was getting dark. I was under the whip a long way from home. It was a match race between a maiden hack and a Group 1 champion.

His (now ex) wife Julie arrived. Singo was running late. She had his shirt for the official function at the Turf club that night. It was still in the plastic packet from the store. To this day I remember one of Australia’s richest men complaining about the pins sticking into his back, as he got dressed in our now tense courtyard.

Mrs Singleton could see that I’d had enough, and was badly in need of a spell. Not so her husband. He demanded I accompany them across the road. Julie was delighted.

So, under-dressed and over-done, I joined the elite of the racing industry, with my new best mate. For about ten minutes. Until I could make a stumbling dash to a waiting cab.

He’s been the same ever since. A knockabout with a genuine love of the racing game. Up for a beer with anyone who shares his outlook. I missed Magic Millions raceday a few years back because our horse was a false favourite at Ipswich. I rang in advance to apologise. He was quick to point out the difference in our racing operations.

Singo’s involvement with some of the nation’s greatest equine performers is no fluke. He’s an outstanding breeder. I’m talking horses here. Everything is done for a reason. He has a keen sense of racing history. And he loves a champion for the masses.

That’s why I hope he takes the Doncaster at Royal Randwick tomorrow with More Joyous. She’s a true champion. They deserve victory.

Yep, she’ll have to lug some weight. Don’t let it worry you. It won’t worry her. Chris Waller’s good horse Triple Elegance has nothing on his back, but the gelding will need to bring his ‘A’ game. The mare is flying. She’ll be winning.

Don’t be fooled by Singo’s bank balance and trackside jokes. He loves nothing better than claiming our classic races. Even better if the rest of us are on with him. Who knows, he might shout the public bar again. But a warning if you’re close by. Look out for the pins if you’re patting him on the back.