Racing and Wagering Western Australian (RWWA) extends their deepest condolences to the family of Marjorie Charleson, who sadly passed away on Saturday, aged 88.
Charleson came to Australia from a sheep farm on New Zealand’s South Isle to pursue an acting career, but her influence on Western Australian racing is where she left an indelible mark.
A racing trailblazer, Charleson was the first female public relations officer of any thoroughbred club in Australia when appointed to the position by the Western Australian Turf Club (WATC).
In an era and industry that was predominantly dominated by male participation and bias, Charleson led the way for gender equity and was considered the first lady of Western Australian racing.
In an array of wonderful achievements, Charleson was best known for her persuasive talents in luring Australia’s best horses, trainers and jockeys to the Ascot carnival.
She was also instrumental in developing Fashions on the Field from Melbourne to Perth and was a fierce and passionate advocate of female participation in racing.
Charleson’s honest and forthright manner assisted in coaxing iconic trainers Bart Cummings, Tommy Smith, Colin Hayes, George Hanlon and Geoff Murphy to bring their star gallopers from the eastern states to race at Ascot’s summer carnival.
Arguably her best accomplishment was attracting the mighty Kingston Town to Perth for the Western Mail Classic in 1982, now renamed the Kingston Town Classic.
A winner of three Cox Plates, 11 Group 1 races and Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year honours in 1980, Kingston Town ultimately ran his final race in the Western Mail Classic.
Charleson’s ability in enticing a host of Australia’s best equine and human talent to Perth for the Ascot summer carnival, gave WA a pivotal profile on the Australian racing calendar.
Charleson attracted a record 28 interstate horses to the 1974-75 Ascot summer carnival, a feat that is unlikely to ever be repeated.
After a 16 year reign at Perth Racing, Charleson’s passion for racing never wavered. She regularly commentated at stallion parades and established the popular thoroughbred magazine, Westbreed.
In 2019 her selfless dedication to Western Australian racing was recognised when a race was named in her honour, the Marjorie Charleson Classic.