Leon Roberts and his late wife Sally Roberts.
Leon Roberts and his late wife Sally Roberts.

Former jockey club president farewells Central Highlands

One of the great champions of thoroughbred racing in the Central Highlands has stepped down due to relocation after decades of service to the industry.

From banking to racing administrator, Leon Roberts grew up on the open plains of Warrachie on the Eyre Penninsula in South Australia.

His passion for horses was flamed by frequent visits to local race meetings in that area.

Before moving to Queensland from South Australia in 1993 he was a committeeman on the Clare Race Club and also the Port Pirie Racing and Trotting Club.

Before moving to Emerald he spent eight years in Clermont working on the bookmakers stand with Jim Turner and joining the committee of the Clermont Race Club.

Roberts has served as vice president of the Emerald Jockey Club for the past 12 months and as president for 15 years prior to that.

Roberts has had a life long interest in racing and brought a unique ground-up experience to his administration roles in his early days.

Leon, with his late wife Sally, moved to Emerald and commenced his involvement with the Emerald Jockey Club and was soon elected chairman of Capricornia Racing Association.

Emerald Jockey Club life member recipients Leon Roberts and Scott power.
Emerald Jockey Club life member recipients Leon Roberts and Scott power.

His experience was brought to bear when he was elected to the Queensland Country Racing Committee 14 years ago.

Now known as the Country Racing Advisory Panel, this group represents all of the country race clubs with regular meetings with the controlling body Racing Queensland.

There were two pillars to Leon’s success as a racing administrator.

He not only brought a deep grassroots knowledge and understanding of thoroughbred racing, but it was topped by his outstanding people skills; his ability to listen, to communicate, to nurture, to relate to others on a personal or professional level.

“I have never subscribed to the theory that committees are hard to work with and have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful contributors,” Leon said.

“At the Emerald Jockey Club we have also had some wonderful club sponsors, many of whom have been with us throughout my time as President and I will always be grateful for their support.

“Racing has been good to me and some of my happiest days have been at the Emerald Jockey Club.”

Leon’s dedication to racing in Emerald was always backed by his late wife Sally, the matriarch of the Roberts family, who rallied the whole family to support Leon’s dedication and passion for racing.

The crowd at the first Eat Street Markets in Emerald.
The crowd at the first Eat Street Markets in Emerald.

He has been part of many achievements at the club, including building up of substantial cash reserves after the global financial crisis and mining downturn between 2012-2015, the introduction of the Eat Street Markets and New Year’s Eve celebrations to name a few.

Leon is moving towards retirement and will relocate to Zilzie after sadly losing his wife Sally to cancer late in 2019.

Leon will continue his role as the Capricornia Racing Chairman a position he has held for nearly 14 years.

“I leave with sadness, but can only envisage exciting times ahead for Pioneer Park and the Emerald jockey Club and racing in Emerald with the number of TAB meetings scheduled for the venue likely to increase significantly,” he said.

He made special mention of Mary Bulger who stepped up to be president in the past 12 months and not only in that role, he said Bulger had always been his wing-woman at the club – an unsung hero of the club for many years.

Due to relocation of both Roberts and Bulger, the reins have been handed to long serving club stalwarts Steven and Donna Erikson.

Erikson has stepped up to the president’s role and Tracey Leake who has stepped up from a committee role to fill the vice president vacancy.

Leon has great faith in handing it all over to Erikson and Leake and the current committee and knows the future of racing in Emerald is in good hands.