Canterbury Park had been independently owned and managed racecourse since the mid-1800’s. In the late 1800’s Canterbury Park was owned by the Canterbury Park Racecourse Company joined with the many independent and “unregistered” clubs in the establishment of the Associated Racing Clubs (ARC) in 1907. The ARC allowed these independent racing clubs to turn themselves into a larger and more organised association of clubs that rivaled the well known Australian Jockey Club (AJC).
Competition between the AJC and the ARC was an intense battle for dominance of the Sydney thoroughbred racing scene in those following years and during the twenties there was enough room and money for both the exist happily. However, the start of the 1930’s proved to be a different story entirely with the beginning of the Great Depression and the impact those years had on racing which much relied on discretionary spending to turn a profit.
The ARC owners however were particularly badly affected by the fact its patrons were more of the working class who were hardest hit. However it was not just the financial hardship of the Great Depression that led to the demise of the ARC, the following World War was a huge blow to proprietary racing as well. During the war, racecourses were an ideal place to build much needed army barracks, in fact it was said “racecourses could not have been better designed to serve as military training camps, for they possessed much of the necessary infrastructure including roads, water, power, sanitation, offices,communications, stables, boundaries and gates, and open spaces for the erection of tents and drilling. Even the dining areas and kitchens below the grandstands were useful for preparing and serving meals.”
Toward the end of the war, the State and federal governments imposed heavy restrictions on racing in order not to distract to people from the job of winning the war, the need to encourage men to join up to help the war effort and the fact that many courses were now occupied by the military led to much hardship for the ARC owners and investors. Even after the war, occupation by the army paid a huge toll, by the end of the war these courses , including Canterbury Park were badly damaged, infrastructure was removed and never recovered and the proprietary clubs had not the necessary finances to make them good again. Neither did they have their licenses to operate which as these were suspended by the McKell State government who had just passed a bill in 1943 to create the State backed “Sydney Turf Club” to own and manage the balance of Sydney racecourses as non-proprietary and not for profit. The STC satisfied the governments desire for centralisation, improved access to taxes, greater bureaucratisation and an end to proprietary racing entirely. The legislation authorised the STC to resume any of the soon-to-be unlicensed proprietary racecourses it judged suitable.
However the STC still had one problem, even with the exclusive right to purchase these now hugely undervalued racing assets from desperately indebted and very motivated sellers, the STC had no assets of its own to hold up as security nor cash to out-rightly acquire these assets themselves. After much debate in Parliament, the answer was state government backed debentures which would be exchanged for ARC shareholdings to compensate the shareholders for forfeiting them of their once lucrative and glorious racing assets.