Vin Cox took the reins of the Magic Millions carnival as Managing Director in 2011, and since then, he has groomed it like the offspring of a champion filly.
Cox has presided over record sales, rising prize-money and a growing franchise of sales meetings. He has a strong reputation among breeders and buyers, and has put on race meetings that are major drawcards for the Gold Coast.
Cox is among the most respected men in racing Australia-wide, having learned from and worked with some of the biggest names in the business, such as Reg Ingles and Rogers Beazley.
More Gold Coast sat down with Cox to talk about his childhood dreams, leadership, his most memorable Magic Millions race day, and more.
What was your childhood dream?
From a very young age I had an interest in racing and thoroughbreds and breeding. I grew up in Mudgee in western New South Wales on a farm where my brother, father and uncles still reside.
My grandfather and father were and are racehorse people and I followed them to race meetings.
I have a general love of the horse, then there is the mystique around the whole thing; there is the science of the breeding and the science of the form guide, but at the same time there is nothing sure about anything, there is still that randomness in the betting and the breeding.
Who have been some of your biggest influences in business?
My first boss, Reg Ingles, was a major influence and his son, Tom, now works here at Magic Millions. I worked for Rogers Beazley, who recently retired as the Director of Keeneland, for six months and the influence he continued to have on me was just sensational. Today, it is Gerry Harvey and Katie Page Harvey. The insights and knowledge they have gained through their success in business is terrific.
What is your favourite quote, and how does it motivate you in the workplace?
You are born with integrity up until you lose it. That sticks with me. You are responsible for your own actions and your own brand and therefore anything that can be held against you is your own fault. You have to maintain those standards in business, and in life.
What have your learned about leadership during your career and has your leadership style changed?
It is about relationships and managing relationships, whether it is relationships with clients, staff or industry and then balancing that with firm commitment and direction. It comes down to sticking with your convictions and making sure they work. Having said that, you can’t be afraid to admit you are wrong.
What is your career highlight?
During my time with Magic Millions, it would be the Tealy Assets Dispersal Sale in 2014. We pitched for the gig and got it, but the opposition weren’t happy and decided to go ahead with an event and do it for nothing. We didn’t compromise on our standards and we held the business. It was phenomenal, one of the best sales held anywhere in the world.
What makes the Gold Coast a great place to live and do business?
Largely, people who do business here or who live here essentially haven’t grown up here. You are not fighting against the cliques that can occur in jurisdictions such as Sydney and Melbourne where, dare I say it, the old-school network can come against you. Gold Coast is very open and has a good mix of people doing business here.
A Magic Millions polo tournament will have its inaugural year in 2017. Why polo and what benefit will it bring to the Gold Coast?
It is something we have been working on for a number of years. We are very proud of where the Magic Millions sale has come to and it is a good opportunity to add another dimension with equine synergy and bring a different genre of person here to the Coast. It will make the carnival experience longer. We have worked on this with Tourism and Events Queensland and it is a different way to promote the Gold Coast and South East Queensland. I am very excited. It is an international event, with international players and guests who will hopefully stay around for the horse sale that follows.
Most memorable Magic Millions win since you have been in charge of the event?
The first running of the $10 million Jeep Magic Millions Raceday in January, 2016 has to be it by a long way. It was very exciting to have a race day of that significance here on the Coast. In the racing, we had Capitalist win the Wyong 2YO Classic, and then she went on to win the Golden Slipper. Mahuta is another Group One winner coming out of that day of racing. It was a great day.
The Magic Millions sale series has accepted nominations. Last year you saw $34 million growth in yearling sales, what is behind that and do you see it continuing?
We hope it does. What is behind that is the breeders have gained the confidence of the elite breeders. We are building a premium bench for yearlings, compared to years gone by when we struggled to get those elite horses. We have out-grossed the Easter Yearling Sales in Sydney and we have out grossed it by some $30 million, which is a vote of confidence in the breeders that turned up and participated. It is a perfect storm we have created here, well and truly. If you gauge the event by the number of million-plus horses sold annually, you can compare two years ago, where we had two and the opposition had 12, with this year when we sold six and the opposition sold eight.
We have seen the NSW Government ban greyhound racing because of concerns over the treatment of animals. Does this underline the importance of caring for horses in your own industry?
Animal welfare is foremost in the mind of people in this industry. The people who look after the horses, whether they are kids at the sale, or stable hands, trainers, breeders or owners, they love and care for the horses more than their own children. I say that tongue in cheek, but it is all about horse welfare and ensuring they are healthy and happy. The industry has taken big steps in terms of looking after retired animals, maintaining a register of where they go and what happens to them in the future. Fillies can go to stud, while geldings can end up in other equine sports such as dressage or show jumping, others can end up as police horses or in private ownership.