NJC hoping for stables funding win out of Rosehill mega deal

OUTGOING Newcastle Jockey Club chairman Geoff Barnett hopes the proposed $5 billion deal to sell Rosehill racecourse to the NSW government will create a flow-on effect to secure funding for much-needed on-course stables at Broadmeadow. In a letter to members on Wednesday, Australian Turf Club chairman Peter McGauran said the proposal, which will lead to 25,000 new homes on the site, would mean the end of racing at Rosehill, likely in the next four to five years. He said the estimated $5 billion in revenue from the deal would be “returned to the ATC and the racing industry”. A new racecourse in Sydney and training centre at Horsley Park, along with upgrades at Warwick Farm, Canterbury and Randwick, were listed as projects to be funded with the windfall. Plans also included new on-course stables at Warwick Farm and Randwick.

The NJC and its on-course trainers have been campaigning in recent years for funding to build new stables at Newcastle Racecourse, to replace the outdated ones at the Beaumont Street end. The NJC unveiled a $20 million plan for 500 new boxes on the Chatham Street side in early 2017, and last September the NSW Department of Planning approved a modified version as a state significant project. However, the project, which would now cost more than $50 million, has failed to gain funding, either from Racing NSW or governments. Barnett, who will stand down as NJC chair in the coming weeks, hoped there would be a flow-on effect from the Rosehill deal to fund Newcastle’s stables. “We’ve got a DA for the stables approved, the trainers really need it, and hopefully something will come our way,” Barnett said. When announcing his decision last month to stand down after 12 years as chair, Barnett said not securing new stables for the track’s trainers was the biggest regret of his tenure. “There is a disappointing issue during my chairmanship,” he said. “My major regret is that I have not been able to improve our stables. “Newcastle trainers are some of the best in NSW and deserve better facilities. “I have fought hard and long for funding over the years and while we are still pressing for funding, I wish I could have achieved the result the club sought.” McGauran told ATC members on Wednesday that the Rosehill deal will benefit the club and “the entire racing industry at every level” and “fully secure the future of Sydney racing into the next century”. While the focus is on the benefits to Sydney racing, the deal should free up Racing NSW to spend more of its substantial coffers on improving facilities in other regions. Racing NSW has already spent more than $11 million on redeveloping the course proper at Newcastle. The governing body also contributed to the installation of a Polytrack synthetic training surface at Newcastle last year. In 2020, the NJC sold Cessnock Racecourse to Racing NSW to help further its stables plan. Racing NSW is redeveloping Cessnock into a pre-training facility. The club next year spent $4 million on new tie-up stalls, which freed up the site of the old race-day boxes along Chatham Street for the proposed stables project. However, the former race-day stalls still stand as the club waits for funding. In August, the NJC said it was in talks with Racing NSW about adjusting its plan because of the rising costs of construction, which had pushed the project’s estimated budget beyond $50 million. The club was looking at cheaper, alternate plans for less boxes across single-storey buildings, rather than 480-boxes in two-storey stables. Newcastle trainer Nathan Doyle said at the time that: “When we came down here probably three years ago the club said to us that in 12 months’ time those boxes will be up and running. Three years down the track and nothing’s been turned … which is very disappointing.” Racing NSW chief Peter V’landys told the Newcastle Herald in August last year that the stable development would happen, “it’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen”. “We are looking at how we are going to fund that, and once we’ve determined how we are going to fund that, we will certainly implement it,” V’landys said. “But it’s a major project so we’ve got to do some other things throughout NSW first, then when we have the resources and the finances, we’ll certainly be looking at Newcastle.” Meanwhile, the NJC is in the process of interviewing applicants to join the board as appointed directors. Incumbent appointments Darren Turner, Alex Wheeler and Dave Irwin have applied to stay on. The recommended appointments will then need approval from Racing NSW. The club’s next board meeting is on December 21 and a new chair to replace Barnett will voted in if the appointments are confirmed in time.