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Odds-on Favorite: Matt Galanos

With a background in accountancy, CEO Matt Galanos keeps a keen eye on the numbers as he leads Australian Turf Club toward the winning post for its biggest deal ever.

‘Hedging your bets’ is a time-proven technique for reducing risk and maximizing profits when punting at the races. Looking at the future, Australian Turf Club CEO Matt Galanos is focused on hedging his company’s bets through diversification.

“We’ve got opportunities in a lot of areas of the business,” Galanos tells The CEO Magazine. “Wagering is always going to be a vital revenue platform for the club, but it’s important for us to find and grow new income streams that aren’t reliant on wagering.”

“It’s important for us to find and grow new income streams that aren’t reliant on wagering.”

Created in 2011 by the merger of two racing clubs, Sydney Turf Club and Australian Jockey Club, the Australian Turf Club’s roots run deep.

“The more you peel back the onion, the more complex you realize this business is,” Galanos explains. “We have three major elements: the racing element, the hospitality side and finally there’s the property side.”

Hot Property

Australian Turf Club owns and operates four racecourses across metropolitan Sydney – Royal Randwick, Canterbury Park, Warwick Farm and Rosehill Gardens. Galanos sees vast potential in this portfolio of properties.

“The property footprint for a racetrack is quite large, and there are parcels of land around the racecourses just sitting there waiting to be developed,” he says. “Of course, you’re going to maintain your racing presence, but where there’s surplus land, that’s where opportunity lies.”

For Galanos, one such opportunity is a proposed US$86 million (A$130 million) seven-story racetrack hotel beside the Royal Randwick racecourse, located in Sydney’s east.

“It will be exciting to bring something new to the club, a whole new revenue stream from operating a hotel,” he confirms. “Our plans include a jockey club, a pool, a restaurant and a bar. We are also going to tailor the ground and first floor for use on race days.”

“Working with the Australian Turf Club is a true and long-standing partnership for Lion. We have aligned values and objectives, and the collaboration extends across all aspects from activations to brand, contributing to mutual growth and shared success.” – Matthew Windsor, Customer Director, Lion


In Sydney’s west, Galanos sees an altogether different strategy for Rosehill Gardens.

“We have entered into an unsolicited proposal process with the NSW Government to develop the Rosehill site, which represents a A$5 billion [US$3.3 billion] opportunity. It will be a massive development, with 25,000 homes, a school, a metro train station and public amenities including green space,” he reveals.

“Making this land available will have substantial benefit to the community. It will contribute to addressing the current housing shortage in Western Sydney and allow for infrastructure to be developed simultaneously.”

Potentially the biggest deal in Australian horse racing history, Galanos considers the sale a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It’s important to say it’s not without some regret, because of the legacy and tradition of Rosehill. But the funds will allow us to secure the future of racing in Sydney for decades to come,” he predicts.

“For example, we intend to construct a state-of-the-art training facility adjacent to the Sydney International Equestrian Centre at Horsley Park.”

Hospitality Champions

Australian Turf Club also plans to upgrade racing and spectator amenities and facilities at Warwick Farm and Canterbury Park, both in Sydney’s south-west.

“We compete for both the sports leisure dollar and the entertainment leisure dollar,” he says. “It’s all about best-in-class experiences for race goers.”

Galanos also believes a racecourse is more than just a racecourse – it is a social hub.

“A race day experience is unique,” he points out. “People dress up to go to the races and have different reasons for coming. Our aim is to continue to offer the experience they’re looking for, or an experience that exceeds their expectations.”

A big part of that is providing quality catering for racegoers. “We have won major state catering industry awards. Our food and hospitality offering sets us apart.”

“It’s all about best-in-class experiences for race goers.”

According to Galanos, the key to catering success lies in securing the right suppliers. An example is Lion Brewery, which has long-term rights as Australian Turf Club’s official beer and cider partner.

“Lion activates on site, giving it an opportunity to promote its product beyond being served at the races,” he says.

The same holds true for Accolade Wines, a major partner providing premium wine labels.

“It’s all about finding a win–win for the Turf Club and the supplier. That’s why we have such good working relationships with them,” he says.

Outside of race days, Australian Turf Club’s grandstand facilities are available for other events. “We’ve got a fairly decent non-race day business. Continuing to grow in that area is also key to our future,” he adds.

Jumping Fences

Galanos was promoted to CEO of Australian Turf Club in August last year after serving a decade as CFO. He contends his tenure as CFO was ideal for gaining insight into the inner workings of the business.

“I’ve worked extensively with previous CEOs as well as the board, which put me pretty much across everything,” he reflects. “I learned a lot about strategy and commercial operations. Stepping up as CEO, I think that holds me in good stead.

“It’s not a matter of just lining up some horses in a barrier and pressing a button. There’s a lot of work that happens behind the scenes to make that happen. And we need to make it happen seamlessly – race after race, day after day, week after week.”

“Our collaboration with the Australian Turf Club has been a remarkable journey of mutual growth, shared excellence and brand enhancement. Its professionalism and commitment have played a pivotal role in elevating our brand awareness and delivering world-class consumer experiences.” – Andrew Antunovich, Head of On Premise and Business Development, Accolade Wines


Throughout his years at Australian Turf Club, Galanos has seen many shifts in the business.

“The racing industry continues to evolve, and our business evolves with it. It’s fast paced, it’s dynamic, it’s constantly changing,” he notes.

At Royal Randwick such changes include the construction of the Winx Stand, a large-scale multipurpose racing and function center named for the legendary thoroughbred champion.

The racing calendar has also evolved. “That’s something we have done in partnership with Racing NSW,” Galanos says. “They came up with the concepts and we brought the race days to reality.”

Foremost among these is The Everest. Launched in 2017, it is the world’s richest turf race, boasting US$13 million (A$20 million) in prize money.

“Before The Everest, we would be lucky to have a crowd of 15,000 per day during spring racing,” he admits. “Now we have over 45,000. That’s a huge change.”

“There’s a lot of potential and a lot of opportunities that we’re continuing to explore, and I think the future’s really exciting.”

For Galanos, the thunder of horses’ hooves is found not only on the track. It also resounds in the pages of his medieval fantasy novels. Perhaps surprisingly to some, in his downtime the CEO revels in spreading his literary wings as a self-published author.

His books follow the daring adventures of a knight named Dane Thorburn astride a trusty black steed.

“I’ve written four in the series so far, with more to come,” he says.

His sagas may be set in a fantastical realm, but there is nothing fantastical about Galanos’ vision for Australian Turf Club. With his form guide clenched firmly in hand and US$3.3 billion (A$5 billion) in funds from the Rosehill development barreling down the straight toward him, he looks well and truly positioned to win, place and show.

“I see an opportunity here to lead the club on to the next phase of its journey,” he concludes. “There’s a lot of potential and a lot of opportunities that we’re continuing to explore, and I think the future’s really exciting.”

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