Charles Roberts Obituary
By Michael Guerin - Photo courtesy of Courtney MacKinnon
One of the legends of the harness racing industry Charles Roberts has passed away.
At 96 years old and having battled the demon that is dementia for nearly three years Roberts’s passing in his South Auckland nursing home on Monday morning wasn’t a surprise to his family.
But it is still very much the end of an era in harness racing as Roberts was a giant of the industry who leaves behind a legacy that will be matched by few.
Roberts was a veterinarian his entire working life and was responsible for post-race drugging testing of horses being adopted in New Zealand which changed the integrity of the industry forever.
His veterinary practice aside though he was a successful breeder and owner of racehorses in both the thoroughbred and harness racing codes for decades before co-founding standardbred breeding behemoth Woodlands Stud in 1992.
After moderate success at times with partner Andrew Grierson the pair changed their business model from from leasing stallions to purchasing their Southern Hemisphere breeding rights.
The stud has never looked back and has grown to be one of the best in the world and home to champion stallion Bettors Delight, arguably the greatest harness racing stallion to ever stand in Australasia.
Not only has Bettors Delight changed the harness racing breed in New Zealand and Australia through the deeds of champions like Lazarus but in 2014 Bettors Delight’s daughter Adore Me, owned by Roberts won the New Zealand Cup.
She later went on to become little miss 1:47.7 in the Ladyship Mile at Menangle, a race Roberts took much pleasure from because he knew in 108 seconds the mare he bred and raced had change the way we thought about times in this part of the world.
Adore Me was one of an army of outstanding horses Roberts bred and owned in the last decade of his life and he loved travelling to see them race, even if it was just to hold court at Alexandra Park.
In later years that was often with the help of his family and eventually his walking frame. But while his body weakened Charles’s attitude (he always liked being called Charles rather than Charlie) never changed.
He was loud to the point of being rambunctious, had the strong opinions of a man with seven decades experience in the industry and a fierce love of the horse, not only his but all horses.
His success as a breeder and owner, Woodlands Stud’s enormous generosity as sponsors along with Charles’s contributions to our veterinary industry will ensure Roberts’s legacy in racing continues for decades.
He is survived by his daughter Mary (and her husband Paul Kenny), son Mark, seven grandchildren and three great-grand children.