Baker making Magic Millions his own
Having annexed almost $4 million in prize-money on the Gold Coast in January over the past six years, Warwick Farm trainer Bjorn Baker could well lay claim to being King of the Magic Millions.
He certainly boasts an enviable record in sales races on either side of the Tasman given his Inglis race series earnings with Twilight Royale and Fuerza, while also having the unique distinction of winning the Karaka Million in New Zealand with The Heckler in 2009 (when then in partnership with father Murray).
Where ever he ranks in the sales race earnings list, he certainly had a darn good weekend and a propitious start to 2019 with his tenth wedding anniversary last Thursday, a $1.4 million pay-day on Saturday and his 41st birthday on Monday.
And there may well be the promise of more to come for the New Zealander born trainer whose Magic Millions run began courtesy of his 2YO Classic win with Unencumbered, whom he purchased for just $70,000, in 2014.
Last Saturday, of course, he won the Magic Millions Cup with Redouble (part-owned by his wife Andrea) and the Snippets with Egyptian Symbol, which earned connections an aggregate of $1.2 million, while Goodfella and Irithea added $230,000 with first four finishes.
In the intervening years, another seven Baker-trained runners finished in the first four at the Gold Coast feature meeting to also considerably add to the stable’s January earnings.
“It has been a brilliant day for the stable. Unencumbered’s win allowed me to get some momentum early in my training career and we’ve been back every year since. That’s part of what’s great about it. With many of these horses you can go back year after year and Egyptian Symbol’s win was especially satisfying as it was her fourth year,” Baker said.
“She ran third in the Guineas, in 2016, at her first run there, and has performed well every there year.”
The Magic Millions 3YO Guineas has thus far eluded Baker. His horses have finished second, third and fourth. Ironically the fourth was recorded by Winning Rupert, his highest profile horse since Unencumbered, who’d been hitherto unbeaten but injury in running meant he retired to Newgate with that ever so sought blemish on his form-card.
That defeat certainly didn’t dampen Baker’s enthusiasm for the Coast nor for the industry itself. “Mind you, that’s a race (the Guineas) I’d very much like to win. The whole week of sales and races is brilliant given that you are right at the back door step of the Gold Coast itself. It’s a quality sale and the atmosphere’s right,’ he said.
Baker’s 2019 acquisitions began with the purchase of eight yearlings, in partnership with relatively new player James Clarke Bloodstock, from $85,000 to a high of $450,000 for the Snitzel ex Real Surreal filly offered by Egyptian Symbol’s owner Cressfield. Clarke worked for Baker as Racing and Bloodstock manager after completing Darley Flying Start and is now operating his own bloodstock business after working also for Godolphin and James Harron.
“James (Clarke) is a good mate and a good operator. He worked for me before heading to Europe and he’s now come back and started on his own. He’s not working exclusively for me but I’m pleased I can use his services. I’m impressed with his knowledge and, quite simply, I think he’s a good judge.
“He’s also got his eye on Europe and managed to secure us a nice horse called Night Of Power from John Oxx in Ireland. There’s a nice symmetry there as I worked for John around 2007 and I was able to ring him and ask about the horse. I haven’t had many European horses so I’m looking forward to working with this one,” he said.
Night Of Power has won three of nine starts, from 1600m to 2400m, in Ireland. He’s by Masterofthehorse (Sadler’s Wells) who was third in the 2009 Epsom Derby behind the Oxx trained champion Sea The Stars.
“The sire hasn’t had any great impact yet but this is a nice horse. I suspect he’d be a 2000 (metres) horse here. He’ll have a jump out this Friday and we’ll see where he takes us from there,” Baker said.
The next sales stop for Baker will, of course, be at Karaka. “Obviously you’ve got the big guns like Savabeel bit I still think a stallion like Sacred Falls flies under the radar a bit and the Ocean Park’s are starting to kick goals. I won’t go there with any preconceived plans, just see how we go and see what we like.
“As we did at the Gold Coast, we’ll be looking for value. Always trying to look at the horse on the angle of return on investment,” he said.
Baker said his operation, last year, marketed somewhere between 20 and 25 horses who were secured as yearlings or at ready to run sales. In a mark of changing times, he said that social media was a key part of the promotion.
“The competition’s tough out there so you have to use every tool available and while the big stables look to be getting stronger and stronger, you have to have a crack or you’ll be left behind.
“And while it may be tough, I think racing is booming. There’s a lot of very attractive races out there which are available to all if you have the right horse peaking at the right time. I think the sales prices held up because of our prize-money.”
Baker sits sixth on the New South Wales state-wide and metropolitan trainer’s premiership stables, a spot he occupied on each at the close of last season. The youngest, bar the well-armed James Cummings, among the top six.
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