When Rosehill Gardens is killed off for billions, who gets all the money?
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After decades of playing second fiddle to Royal Randwick, Rosehill Gardens is finally getting the multibillion-dollar refurbishment it has long deserved.
The only problem? There’s no racetrack.
Stunning news broke on Wednesday night about an Australian Turf Club proposal to the NSW government to shut down and level the iconic course so 25,000 new apartments can be built in its place.
The ATC is expected to raise a whopping $5 billion from the sale, although others say it could be as much as $8 billion.
My first thought was: where will the Golden Slipper be held?
My second: who gets the money? The dash for cash will resemble a bunch of two-year-old horses jostling down the straight with trainers, jockeys and owners desperate to get their hands on the loot.
James McDonald wins on Anamoe at Rosehill GardensCredit: Getty
Reassuringly for the racing industry and its followers, hundreds of millions of dollars will be pumped into Warwick Farm and Canterbury.
Funds will also be invested in a new Centre of Excellence at Horsley Park, ending the century-old fight in this city for boxes. This is where Rosehill – and Australia’s – most prominent trainer Chris Waller will presumably stable his horses.
The door remains ajar for a new racetrack to be built altogether, although where and how long that will take is anyone’s guess.
Like all these things, the proposal needs to land on several desks and debated by many politicians before any sale goes through. It’s estimated that process could take as long as four years.
Australia’s finest racehorse of the modern era, Winx, was stabled at Rosehill.Credit: Nick Moir
There will be an understandable outcry from trainers, owners, members, and racing traditionalists. Rosehill, bless it, is a much-loved track built in 1885 and steeped in history.
This was Winx’s home track. It’s where John Singleton shouted the bar after Belle Du Jour won the Slipper in 2000. Slipper Day remains one of the best programs on the Australian calendar but holding it at Randwick or Warwick Farm will feel weird.
One prominent owner captured the thoughts of many when he said: “Once you sell something, you never get it back.”
The problem with Rosehill has always been getting there. The ATC has lobbied government for years about having a Metro West station but with no luck.
As a consequence, it’s two biggest race days are the Golden Slipper and Golden Eagle. On those days, you can age a decade sitting in crawling traffic on James Ruse Drive.
This proposal, on the surface, looks like a once-in-a-lifetime deal for Sydney. It future-proofs racing and people get somewhere to sleep.
Which brings us back to the $5 billion and where it will go. After the development of other facilities is finished, there will be a lot of loose change to go around.
The funds will belong to the ATC, but there’s a provision in the Racing Act that allows Racing NSW to take control of any club’s finances if it doesn’t think it’s spending its pennies wisely.
As we saw with the departure of Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding, racing participants are rarely on the same page.
When there’s money involved, best to keep out of the way.
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