Newcastle put $20 million stable plans on ice in hope of winning Racing NSW strategy

Concept plans for Newcastle Racecourse's $20 million stables.
Concept plans for Newcastle Racecourse's $20 million stables.

Newcastle Jockey Club chief executive Matt Benson said it “would be ll-advised to go full steam ahead” with plans for a 508-horse, $20 million stabling area at Broadmeadow racecourse when Racing NSW is forming its next strategic plan.

The Herald revealed in March the NJC’s early plans to replace its Beaumont St on-course stables with a new two-storey complex on the Chatham Rd side of Newcastle Racecourse, which would more than double the boxes available to trainers.

It was hoped the stables would complement the track’s state-of-the-art, $11.2 million course proper, which was opened in March, and create a centre of excellence to ultimately attract more participants to the region. However, no funding had been secured for the plan, which remains in the concept stage.

Amid speculation the plan had been shelved because of cost blow-outs associated with maintaining the new surface, Benson told the Herald there were other considerations.

“Racing NSW are embarking on a new strategic planning process, and they kicked that off with the industry forums to identify key issues, and one of the things provincial clubs are passionate about is stabling and training facilities being a focus of any new plans,” Benson said. “In light of that hopefully coming up as a priority in a statewide strategic analysis, we would be ill-advised to go full steam ahead into a planning process, irrespective of any financial concerns, just because the timing wouldn’t be right.

“It’s the view of provincial clubs that there would be genuine disappointment if one of the priorities that falls out of this process is not a very detailed look at how the state is set up for training facilities.”

Given the state faces a stabling shortage, Benson said it would be far better to come into line with what Racing NSW was planning and “hopefully Newcastle, as it should be, is an important part of that”.

He believed Newcastle could become a centre of excellence servicing a broad range of racing needs.

“The logic would appear to be Newcastle becoming a Northern centre,” he said. “It will obviously have a focus on racing, training and hopefully, in time, education as well. I would love to see us being able to provide education opportunities for locals to move onto the racing, breeding, sales and even the eventing type industries.”

Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys told the Herald in March that if there was ever going to be a centre of excellent, “it’s going to be here in Newcastle”. 

“We want Newcastle to succeed and we want a centre of excellence, and when you have a club that’s proactive and really tries hard, we try hard to support them,” he said.

Meanwhile, jockey Chad Lever appeared to have a lucky escape from a fall at Scone on Tuesday despite being transported to John Hunter Hospital by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Lever was near the rear of the field on Anticipate, trained by Newcastle’s Jason Deamer, in race five when they fell heavily approaching the home turn.

Racing NSW safety officer Phillip O'Brien reported that Lever was awaiting tests results at John Hunter Hospital but he was conscious and had a head laceration that would need suturing. Racing NSW steward Damien Carr earlier said Lever’s injuries were not as serious as first suspected.

Later, Racing NSW's Dr David Duckworth reported Lever had a small bleed on his brain that needed observation and a deep cut on his forehead that required stitching. Lever also had a painful jaw and thumb that needed X-rays on Wednesday.

Deamer was not at the track but was later told Anticipate was “OK” after the fall.

The fall overshadowed an eye-catching debut from Floki in race two (1000m). Trained at Newcastle by Ben Smith, the Yarraman Park Stud four-year-old won by more than eight lengths.