The once ultra-modern 1980s racing stable that ended a premiership dominance is long gone and the racetrack that provided Brian Mayfield-Smith with one of his most cherished moments is facing the same fate.

But the influence of the former North Queensland stockman who climbed his way to the top of Australian racing lives on, thanks to a delicious moment of irony to emerge from a flurry of million-dollar yearlings selling on the Gold Coast.

Backed by British pools magnate Robert Sangster and fast-food entrepreneur Bob Lapointe, Mayfield-Smith brought down the might of Tulloch Lodge to wrest the Sydney trainers’ crown away from TJ Smith after 33 seasons.

But for all his owners’ wealth and commitment to racing, Mayfield-Smith insists his premierships in 1985/86, 1986/87 and 1987/88 were crafted on a careful buying strategy rather than lavish spending sprees at the yearling sales.

So when the gavel fell at $1 million for a daughter of first-season sire Ole Kirk at Magic Millions, Mayfield-Smith was probably entitled a wry smile, given his connection to the filly, however tenuous, that traces to the height of his fame.

The filly’s consignor was Newhaven Park, a famous stud located on the NSW southwest slopes that has been in the Kelly family for four generations.

Mayfield-Smith trained the New Zealand-bred Marauding to win the 1987 Golden Slipper for Sangster and a Newhaven group that also included the Ingham brothers in the ownership.

What is not so obvious is Mayfield-Smith’s link to the Ole Kirk filly’s pedigree, courtesy of her great grandam Queen Saga.

Queen Saga is an unraced daughter of Marooned, a son of Mill Reef who Sangster imported to Australia for outstanding results in staying races under Mayfield-Smith’s watch during the 1986 autumn carnival that culminated in a Sydney Cup win from his Rosehill stables known as Nebo Lodge.

“What a lot of people don’t realise, even though I was training for a couple of real big owners, they never bought up big at the yearling sales like Tommy Smith, Bart Cummings and Colin Hayes,” Mayfield-Smith told The Straight.

“Even when I won the three premierships when you went to the yearlings sales, Nebo Lodge people would never be in the top-five buyers at any particular sale, especially the Magic Millions and Sydney Easter.

“They were looking for value for money. The cheaper the horse - if it is any good - the more chance you’ve got of a return.

Brian Mayfield-Smith.
Sydney premiership-winning trainer Brian Mayfield-Smith. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

“A decent return in some cases to cover the cost of the ones that aren’t going to make it.

“Spending millions all the time on the top-bred stuff which tends to get out of hand in the sale ring with the competitiveness of it - that sort of blows the price out to ridiculous levels.

“It’s pretty hard to make things go anywhere near paying for themselves.”

Marauding’s Golden Slipper win ranks among the most vivid of Mayfield-Smith’s Rosehill memories and the idea of the racecourse being sold for housing is perhaps an unwanted reminder of how progress can disrupt the racing industry landscape.

One of the fastest-growing parts of Sydney in the early 1990s, the off-course stables that once littered the Rosehill surrounds were always a target for redevelopment.

Nothing was spared.

As such, Nebo Lodge and Dr Geoff Chapman’s Lord Ben Stables were high-profile yards opposite the racecourse that were knocked down to make way for apartments and shops.

“They (Sangster and Lapointe) made the decision sooner rather than later to wind it down and develop it for commercial purposes which they did,” Mayfield-Smith said.

“It was a bloody shame. They were fantastic, exquisitely built stables in brick and it was just a shame to see the whole thing demolished.”

Mayfield-Smith says Rosehill offered everything he needed as a trainer to challenge for a Sydney premiership.

“I had 100 horses in work there plus all the ones in pre-training and spelling,” he said.

“But at the end of the day you’ve got to put it - and hold it all together - to make it happen in the respect of getting the end result.

“Rosehill as a training venue was very good. I guess it had to be for someone to win three premierships, especially against someone like Tommy Smith.”

“It was a bloody shame. They were fantastic, exquisitely built stables in brick and it was just a shame to see the whole thing demolished.”

Mayfield-Smith moved to Randwick after Nebo Lodge’s closure and trained there before taking a career sabbatical in 1995 to pursue wildlife interests in South Africa.

He returned to the training ranks in Melbourne before retiring with his wife Maree to live on a farm 90 minutes northeast of the city.

A natural horseman, he still rides cutting horses and his conservationist ideals are as strong as ever.

“There were big open paddocks when he bought the farm but we have planted a helluva lot of trees,” he said.

“It’s brought back a lot of the bird environment and other species so we can console ourselves with that little contribution.”

Saving Rosehill from the hands of developers might not be so straightforward.