By Michael R Williams
Eight years ago, Rob Luck, the now former Jockey Club President and current Vice President made it his mission to see the organisation grow – now he has been honoured with a life membership.
The ceremony was held at the Longreach Cup this September with a presentation held for both Mr Luck and his wife and business partner, Leanne Luck who received a certificate of appreciation.
Mr Luck said he believed the allocation of the award came from both the time he has spent with the club and the achievements he has helped to create.
“(The club was in) a fairly stagnant situation [for the club before Mr Luck’s time as president] both financially and attendance wise,” he said.
“(We turned) the club into a venture that was much more community focussed with a race day.
“Members of the community [would come] to see race day as the place to be – that came about with the efforts our committee put in during that time.”
Mr Luck and his committee made it their prerogative to get numbers back up at race day.
They did so by allowing other groups to run their functions on race day, such as the PNC running a Mother’s Day Luncheon; or the return of Fashion on the Field, run by Mrs Luck.
“(Fashions on the Field) became its own event,” Mr Luck said.
“So much so that I used to say, ‘somewhere out there, there are horses running around in a circle.”
Racing has been what Mr Luck bleeds since 1965 when a horse named Eyeliner caught his attention, winning her first nine races straight.
“That was that feeling you get in sport when the hairs in the back of the neck stand-up, it’s an exciting moment,” Mr Luck said.
“Ever since then I was hooked.”
As a kid, Mr Luck had ambitions of becoming a jockey himself, but unfortunately grew too fast.
“It’s about the love of the horse and their career for me, not so much the punting side.”
“I loved looking at the breeding aspects of a horse.
“I had a grandfather who lived in Hendra, so as a kid I loved walking around and looking at the stables.”
Moving forward, Mr Luck said he believes the Jockey Club will continue to grow along the path he and his committee has established.
“We had a good committee that wanted to see the club grow,”
“And once we realised that we needed to keep involving the community, we then realised we had a product that could be sold to sponsors.
“As a result financially the club was able to grow.”
The club then could apply for grants which then would pay for improvements to the member’s stands and a new kitchen area.
“Community groups continued to see it as a lovely venue,” Mr Luck.
“Our disadvantage is that a lot of our equipment is outdated and needs to be modernised.
“That’s the process that where in at the moment, the Jockey Club is looking at becoming grant ready for future “
In the last eighteen months, the Jockey Club has hosted senior formals, memorial services, funerals, weddings and Christmas parties.
“It’s such a fantastic open air venue – as well as having covered areas – but, it’s also got that unique outback sunset,” Mr Luck.
“Not only do we want make Longreach a central club in racing Queensland but also, we build it in a way that is accessible to the community.”
Mr Luck said he sees Central West racing as a vital part of the regrowth of Racing Queensland.
“Country racing has been through some ups and downs, some doldrums, and some cutbacks,” he said.
“Queensland has the largest number of country racing clubs in the country and that’s seen as an opportunity not a hindrance.
“That will link to tourism, that will link to getting the message out about country towns – because they understand the importance of racing to a country town.”
After stepping down from the presidency, Mr Luck has decided to remain on the committee as a Vice President and advisor to current President Andrew Watts.
He is currently looking to sell his local business, Barker’s Newsagency and plans to move after its sale.