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Bowditch on Intercontinental Duty

7 min read
As the bloodstock world continues to become more international, the sales circuit never truly ends. Although the major Australasian sales are in the books for the year, Magic Millions Managing Director Barry Bowditch is as busy as ever.

The Magic Millions team is already well into the process of sorting through the cream of the new yearling crop for January’s Gold Coast sale, and Bowditch was in Lexington, Kentucky this week fulfilling the duties of his other role as Keeneland’s Australasian rep during that firm’s flagship September Yearling Sale.

While it is rather unusual to see two major sales companies sharing resources, Bowditch said it is a mutually beneficial relationship for Keeneland and Magic Millions. Bowditch took over the role in January when former Magic Millions Managing Director Vin Cox departed to run Godolphin Australia.

“It’s a good relationship we have going on between the two sales companies,” Bowditch said. “We work well together and Vin was able to share his workload between Magic Millions and Keeneland. I put my hand up for the position and was lucky enough to grab it as well.”

A sprinkling of Australians were visible around Keeneland during the week, including Craig Rounsefell of Boomer Bloodstock and Newgate’s Henry Field assisting the SF Bloodstock team, but Bowditch admitted more intercontinental business gets done during the two companies’ respective breeding stock sales.

“We Australians don’t do a lot here at the moment, although there are some fillies in here that have pedigrees that do really resonate back home,” he said. “Our main job is to try to get people to the breeding stock sales to buy mares to take home. When you look at the success of American mares in Australia, they bat well above their weight. The percentages of stakes winners and stallions at stud out of American mares back home is quite phenomenal. They’re the areas we market from the American side and it’s great from the Magic Millions perspective to be able to come up here and communicate with our clients here in America and market Magic Millions leading into January.”

"A lot of Americans are engaged in what’s going on in Australia and we hope to get a lot of them there in January.” - Barry Bowditch

Bowditch said he has heard plenty of positive feedback from Americans about the Australian industry this week.

“They are engaged in the Australian industry,” he said. “Our racing is strong and they enjoy it. They enjoy being apart of our culture and a lot of them are having success. Look at what WinStar have done with their colts and their success so far. Spendthrift, each and every yearling sale season they’ve shopped so far they’ve got a stallion to go to stud. You have Stonestreet and Mt Brilliant breeding a couple down there. A lot of Americans are engaged in what’s going on in Australia and we hope to get a lot of them there in January.”

The strength of Magics graduates

Should Magic Millions need any additional marketing leverage, they need look no further than last weekend’s G2 Run to the Rose S., where the first five home were all graduates of the Gold Coast Yearling Sale. Those include the current joint Timeform highweighted 3-year-olds Graff (Star Witness) and Lean Mean Machine (Zoustar). This marks a significant milestone in the evolution of a sale that as little as five years ago was considered chiefly a source of precocious juveniles.

Lean Mean Machine is a Magic Millions graduate

“We’re incredibly excited about our graduates on the whole, of course having horses like Winx out there running for us, but our 3-year-olds this particular season--you look at the Run to the Rose last Saturday, and we dominated that race,” Bowditch said. “Having the likes of Graff, Zousain, Lean Mean Machine; these are serious horses going forward. They’re not only going to have great success on the racetrack in the months to come but they’re then going to go to stud and make their marks.”

“We’re particularly proud of the way we select our catalogue, based on physicals,” he added. “That’s reflected on the racetrack; our practice of selecting a good, strong catalogue of good physicals is leading to racetrack success for our buyers.”

A seamless transition

At just 35, Bowditch is one of the younger people at the helm of a major global sales company. One would imagine that kind of promotion at a relatively young age would come with a steep learning curve, but Bowditch said having a “phenomenal” team at Magic Millions–including proprietors Gerry and Katie Harvey as mentors–as well as 12 prior years with the company has made it a rather seamless transition.

“There’s a lot more scope to my role now but I have a phenomenal team; everyone knows their role and gets in and gets it done,” he said. “From that point of view the transition was seamless. I’m still doing as much horse stuff as I possibly can and getting on the road and seeing a lot of yearlings. From that perspective it’s all gone pretty status quo so far."

"The corporate side is all new to me, but having Gerry and Katie not only as proprietors of Magic Millions but as mentors and to be able to call them up for advice, I’m incredibly lucky. They’re really forward-thinkers; they think outside the box. I enjoy that they push me, and as much as we’re doing well we can always get better and better.”

Barry credits his mentors, Katie and Gerry Harvey

“Going forward for the next few months, marketing January is probably where it’s all going to matter. We’re out on the road all over the place so we can get in the best buyers we can for January. That starts a hell of a long time before the catalogue comes out. We have our team [in the U.S.], guys in Europe and in Asia; it’s a year-round job now getting as many people engaged in what we’re doing as we possibly can.”

Bowditch said marketing has evolved into much more than promoting a sale.

“In the past you’d market the sales, but now marketing our event and marketing Magic Millions is incredibly important. We’re very proud of what our event has become and how many people are attracted not only to the horse sale but also the raceday, the polo the barrier draw; we get massive numbers to these events now and we want to continue to grow all those parts. I didn’t realize the enormity of what goes into it; I was just running the horse sale before, but it’s huge.”

“We had the highest-grossing yearling sale ever in the Southern Hemisphere this year so we’re proud of that." Barry Bowditch

Ready for January

With the process of putting together the catalogue for the 2019 Gold Coast Yearling Sale already well underway, Bowditch said, “It’s early days but there’s a lot of lovely horses out there and I expect the sale to go to another level. We have a record number of entries but we’re going to keep the structure the same and just raise the bar and continue to have similar numbers to what we’ve had the past couple years. Hopefully we can just get a better quality of horse and take the sale to the next level.”

The Gold Coast Yearling Sale has lofty heights to live up to based on last year’s renewal, but it is a sale that has grown year on year as of late.

“We had the highest-grossing yearling sale ever in the Southern Hemisphere this year so we’re proud of that, and then we went onto our broodmare sale which was a star act and our weanling sale was a record,” Bowditch said. “We had a particularly good year all the way through even at our smaller sales like Perth, which had a 97% clearance rate and a great average.

"You go to [the Gold Coast March Yearling Sale], we had the Spirit of Booms that dominated the market and it was a record-breaking March sale. I’m hopeful that’s put us in great shape with our vendors to put some great catalogues together next year. With the yearlings we’ve been shown for January we’re incredibly excited about putting the catalogue together. The other sales off the back of January will be very well supported as well.”