Racing NSW has ambitious plans to transform a proposed mine site in the Southern Highlands into a world-class training centre and "horse town" modelled on Newmarket in England.
The organisation has also purchased two racecourses in the Hunter region but the most ambitious vision is to find a property of more than 400 hectares to establish the country's premier training hub within two hours of Sydney. A favoured location is a greenfield site near Berrima where the controversial Hume Coal Project is proposed to be developed.
The mine is in doubt after the NSW Independent Planning Commission last month identified a range of environmental and social issues with the project, which in December received a damning assessment from the Department of Planning and Assessment. Prominent broadcaster Alan Jones has been among the most outspoken opponents of the proposed development.
As part of an infrastructure spending blitz aimed at future-proofing the industry, Racing NSW has already spent $88 million in improvement to race tracks around the state including rebuilds of Randwick's Kensington track, Newcastle and Kembla Grange in Wollongong.
Almost $100 million of revenue from the NSW point of consumption tax has been set aside for upgrades alongside prize money boosts for The Championships and the $45 million Everest carnival.
With major training tracks at Randwick, Rosehill and Warwick Farm at capacity and coming under pressure from the urbanisation of Sydney, Racing NSW believes the future for the majority of training is outside Sydney.
"It is not easy to find that much land but we have looked a couple of options," Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys said. "Ideally it would be centre around a country town, which would be revitalised by the investment and become Australia's Newmarket.
"We need to increase our training facilities and infrastructure to world's best standard. We have the best carnivals in the country and the plan is to have training that matches anywhere in the world."
The European model has growing appeal, where there are miles of straight gallops on different surfaces. It take stress off horses as they are not constantly turning as they do in Australia when trained on racecourses.
Newmarket in England is a training heaven. It is racing town where horses have right of way as they are heading to train or to the racecourse.
"We would like it to be like the world's great training centres and would take more time to develop with training gallops and tracks but also be home to all the parts of the industry," V'landys said.
"It would also be environmentally friendly and give sustainable boost to the region."
The vision for it was set out in the Racing NSW strategic plan earlier this year, which stated trainers would be able to buy land and build their own stables. It claimed trainers could "invest in an asset that will enjoy ongoing demand. Over time, this will better enable trainers to secure their financial future rather than simply renting stabling over a prolonged period."
According to the strategic plan, Racing NSW would "retain the option to fund the construction of some stabling. However, these would be leased at a premium rental and Racing NSW would retain the ability to have trainers required to meet key performance indicators."
Racing NSW last year purchased Bart Cummings' Princes Farm in the Hawkesbury, which is set to be used a training academy.
It has also purchased the Scone racecourse and surrounding land and it will become a 120-hectare training centre of excellence in Australia's best horse country.
Racing NSW is also in the progress of completing a deal to buy the Cessnock racecourse from the Newcastle Jockey Club to convert it into a training-only track.
"The money that we buy Cessnock with, would be funnelled back into building more stables at Newcastle, which make our investment there even more viable," V'landys said. "The Cessnock meetings would be move to Newcastle's Beaumont track and it would be made into training centre."
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