No longer a rich man's folly, historic Fernhill at Mulgoa in race to subdivision

Undistracted by Gai Waterhouse buying a Melbourne bolthole apartment, Title Tattle notes Fernhill, the Georgian-era showcase estate at Mulgoa, is set to hold a picnic race day.

It follows its complicated 2012 acquistion by the entreprenuer Simon Tripp and his wife, Brenda. 

Apparently they are talking about having Delta Goodrem there with 15,000 attendees. The November 9 Fernhill Picnic Race Day will feature six picnic races, including the $25,000 Fernhill Cup, run on the estate’s 2400m grass track. 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley will officiate at the call of the card.

While the disused racecourse actually only dates back to the 1970s, the 654 hectare Fernhill estate (pictured below) dates back to the 1840s. As veteran Fairfax Media racing writer Max Presnell recently wrote while Fernhill has a great thoroughbred history, it had been as a stud and not for racing.

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He noted one of the greatest racehorses that ever trod the Australian turf, Yattendon died at Fernhill, near Penrith in 1880.

Winner of the Sydney Cup in 1866, Yattendon produced Melbourne Cup winners Chester (1877) and Grand Flaneur (1880).

Title Tattle recalls the stables, which could house up to 20 horses, are the oldest buildings on site having housed the Irish stonemasons who worked on the Greek Revival temple-style sandstone residence. 

The six-bedroom mansion is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country.

It was built for Edward Cox, the sixth and youngest son of pioneer William Cox, possibly designed by architect Mortimer Lewis, with amended plans dropping the second storey due to the 1840s agricultural recession. William Cox oversaw the building of the first road over the Blue Mountains in 1814.

Fernhill remained in the ownership of the Cox family until 1896, when it sold to the Wright family, of Wright, Heaton and Co, who billed their firm as the most extensive carrying firm in the colony.

Its former owner Warren Anderson has expressed concerns about the picnic race meeting set down for November 9 on safety and heritage grounds.

Warren Anderson, who had Asian ponies trained on the property, suggests the Fernhill track was unsuitable for horse racing as the track was designed by Frank Gardiner as a private pre-training track in the late 1970s.

He suggests no more than two horses worked on it at a time as the bends on the track were not cambered and too acute for horses to negotiate safely.

But Presnell noted Racing NSW deputy chairman of stewards Marc Van Gestel has replied to suggest Fernhill had been subject of a maintenance program to ensure the course meets minimum standards for a country D picnic meeting.

More might come to light as a barrier trial was scheduled to take place yesterday with barrier limits of eight runners for each race set by stewards.

Anderson is also concerned the heritage listed property could become the next Bong Bong, the NSW Southern Highlands race meeting that for a while was just busloads of fun seekers enjoying the booze rather than the racing.

The Tripp couple still only hold a caveatable interest as purchaser under a November 30, 2012 put and call option deed, according to a check of the land title records.

At the time of the sale, it was suggested the couple secured the mansion outright and entered into a joint venture with the financiers Angas, the Adelaide-based boutique financier, to develop housing development on its outer perimeter.

The local press have noted the plans, which included biobanking land, were for 38 two hectare lots plus 53 losts averaging 2000 square metres each.

Title Tattle notes there's unregistered paperwork prepared for a new deposited plan at the land titles office.

The Penrith Press noted that Simon Tripp refuted claims the couple and Angas could make $81.5 million profit from the envisaged subdivision which were made in an unsigned letter to Mulgoa neighbours.

"The subdivision is essential for the survival of Fernhill. Fernhill was left in a very precarious position. Our plan is to turn Fernhill into a viable working enterprise, not just a rich man's folly. 

"The defamatory claims in that letter are completely untrue. We are making no money from the subdivision of Fernhill - it is to relieve the debts of the previous owner," Simon Tripp told the Penrith Press.

Fernhill currently has 15 lots totalling 654 hectares, of which 404 hectares form part of the historic Fernhill estate that contains the original 1810 Cox family Crown land grant.

All up the deal was reportedly valued at more than $50 million after extensive negotiations by Teena Dwight at in conjunction with Paul Cutcliffe at Cutcliffe Acreage Property. The sale followed a matrimonial Anderson family dispute.



The other major racing occurance was news that the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) plans to sell two parcels of land to Chinese ultra high-rise ­developer, Greenland Group

The deal, which could net the racing club about $45 million, will fund plans for a new grandstand. But it needs Foreign Investment  Review Board approval. 

The VRC has proposed selling two parcels of land – a three-hectare site behind the main grandstand used for parking and an unused 1.05 hectare site on Epsom Road – to Greenland with the Australian Financial Review mooting a 2000-apartment project.

The VRC proposal includes demolition of the 1924 Members’ Old Grandstand with grandstand design plans being drawn up by Bates Smart Architects. The new grandstand will take a year to build and open in 2017. 



Title Deeds spotted an interesting sales settlement on the Doncaster Avenue, Kensington racing strip in Sydney.

John Messara has recently sold his historic stables for $5.6 million to a property development company directed by Felix Milgrom.

Messara, chairman of Racing NSW, bought the property from the cash-strapped Australian Turf Club in 2008 for $5.772 million. Its in a prime position overlooking Randwick racecourse.

The reliable tip came from the suave racing writer Max Presnell,  currently appearing on the ABC News Radio Sunday mornings show, Hoof on the Till during the spring carnival, who recalls the stables hosted the likes of trainer Harry "H" Darwon.

Meanwhile speculation persists that Gai Waterhouse could also sell some of her extensive stable holdings, with those in the know suggesting the stables made famous by Frank McGrath and Fil Allotta on Doncaster Avenue. Certainly not Tulloch Lodge.

Waterhouse remains on the waiting list for Randwick racecourse equine accommodation, which Presnell says is just another reason the trainer is disillusioned with Sydney.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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