A ‘once-in-a-century’ opportunity to inject nearly $5 billion of funds into the future of the racing industry proved irresistible to the Australian Turf Club, even though it means the closure of Rosehill racecourse after 150 years.

ATC Chairman Peter McGauran provided additional detail of the pending deal on Thursday having signed a memorandum of understanding with the NSW state government which will see Rosehill transformed into a suburb with 25,000 homes, a school and a new Metro West railway station.

McGauran admitted the decision to end racing and training at Rosehill within five years would cause ‘angst and regret’ given the tradition and history of the venue, but said the potential windfall would be transformative for thoroughbred racing in New South Wales.

“It’s a once in a 100-year opportunity to transform our racing industry, completely securing its future. The revenue will ensure that racecourse facilities and training centres and member and racegoer experiences are the very best in the world and for decades to come,” he said.

“The revenue from the redevelopment of Rosehill Gardens will leapfrog racing in Sydney and in New South Wales forward by 50 years. All the things we only ever dreamt of can come about.”

The closure of Rosehill – Questions and Answers
The proposed closure and sell off of Rosehill racecourse has created plenty of queries and The Straight has gone through the key questions it has raised and, where possible, the key answers to those questions.

The ATC has said the $4.8 billion expected to be raised from the deal would enable redevelopment and re-alignment of Canterbury racecourse, including a new grandstand, a significant upgrade for Warwick Farm racecourse and the redevelopment of the ageing stabling facilities at Randwick.

"All the things we only ever dreamt of can come about.” - Peter McGauran

It would also fund the major development of a training centre at Horsley Park in Sydney’s west, with a view to most of the capacity for the 300-400 horses currently trained at Rosehill moving by 2028. 

ATC chairman Peter McGauran
ATC chairman Peter McGauran (second left) (Photo:(Photo by Wendell Teodoro/Getty Images for ATC)

Australia’s biggest and most successful trainer Chris Waller currently has his main base at Rosehill but is yet to comment on the proposal. 

However, the plan has drawn concerns from other trainers, with Hall Of Fame member Gai Waterhouse describing it as ‘the saddest decision they have ever made’ while Randwick-based John O’Shea questioned why such a key asset for the ATC would be sold.

“If someone said to me, they wanted to sell Canterbury, I’d say good, get rid of it, it’s an underperforming asset. Why would you sell your number one asset, because they don’t own Randwick, they own Rosehill, right in the logistical centre of Sydney?” O’Shea told The Straight.

“There has been a lot of discussion among my colleagues (trainers), and I haven’t heard one of them come out in support, but they can speak for themselves.

“We are very lucky in Racing NSW, because of the wonderful work Peter V’landys has done, we are in a very strong financial position. So why do we need to go and sell our number one asset?”   

"Why would you sell your number one asset, because they don’t own Randwick, they own Rosehill, right in the logistical centre of Sydney?" - John O'Shea
Industry reaction to Rosehill sale plan
Key players have their say on proposed loss of Rosehill racecourse.

At the announcement of the deal on Thursday, McGauran also outlined a plan to establish a new racecourse within metropolitan Sydney, with a search for a suitable location about to begin.

“This is exciting, we have a vision for racing, it’s a racing industry that is part and parcel of the community and represents its members, its participants and the wider community jointly,” McGauran said.

“It is sad for us to lose Rosehill Gardens and it will cause a great many people a deal of angst and regret. There is no shying away from that, because at the heart of racing is tradition and history, and Rosehill has embodied the very best history and traditions of racing for 150 years.

“But sports die if they don’t re-invigorate, reinvest and re-envisage the future and that is the vision we have for racing in Sydney.”

The ATC will undertake a long process of further consultation and discussion with the government, expected to take at least 12 months, while the Rosehill deal is also contingent on a majority of ATC members voting for the proposal.

"Sports die if they don’t re-invigorate, reinvest and re-envisage the future"- Peter McGauran

Just how transformative the cash injection would be for the ATC was outlined by McGauran when he spoke of the current capital works budget across the club’s current four tracks.

“At the Australian Turf Club, we should be spending $10 million a year on capital expenditure, our funds only allow us $3 million a year,” he said.

New South Wales premier Chris Minns was similarly effusive about the impact the proposed Rosehill sale would have on the racing industry in the state.

“There is no racing-associated industry in the entire world which would have that amount of private capital to put back into the sport,” he said.

Reflecting on Rosehill’s Golden history
In five or so years, Rosehill Racecourse will be no more with this week’s announcement that the New South Wales government is buying the site for redevelopment.

“As a result of that, we believe racing in this state can take the lead of any other jurisdiction in the country and ensure that when it comes to spectators, punters, trainers and jockeys and those that work in this racing industry, we have got a national leading racing industry of any jurisdiction.

“That can only happen with that amount of private capital being re-invested into this wonderful sport.

“These are major changes for Sydney, but we believe it will be worthwhile. I know there will be some consternation and some anxiety, but the truth is that all the best things that have happened in Sydney have been difficult to do and this is one of those good things for Sydney.”

Rosehill to be sold off in shock move by ATC
Rosehill racecourse, the home of the Golden Slipper and more recently the Golden Eagle, will cease racing within five years after a shock announcement by the New South Wales government that it will acquire it from the Australian Turf Club (ATC) to build a suburb of 25,000 homes.