Racing Queensland will wave goodbye to its longest serving employee next week when handicapping stalwart Lester Grimmett retires after more than 50 years in the industry.
The 73-year-old got his start in the industry in 1968, taking notes at stewards’ inquiries for the Queensland Turf Club on a part-time basis.
By 1973 he had risen through the ranks to become an assistant handicapper for the QTC, and seven years later was appointed Head Handicapper.
Grimmett oversaw a golden age in Queensland racing, having had the pleasure of weighting the likes of Strawberry Road and Vo Rogue, as well as Chief De Beers whom he still singles out as his favourite horse.
Conversely, on a day shrouded in infamy, Grimmett – in his official capacity - was present in the stewards’ room during Fine Cotton affair in 1984, a day in which he was required to physically check whether the brands matched the QTC records.
In 2003, Grimmett’s role as Chief Handicapper saw him lead the introduction of a centralised handicapping system to cover the whole state, a role in which he served until 2015.
Affectionately known as ‘The Cat’, Grimmett stepped aside as Chief Handicapper five years ago to move into a part-time role, which he has since occupied through until his retirement.
“I grew up with a passion for the industry, and can remember going to the track as early as four-years-old with my mother, so to work in an industry I have always loved was a dream come true,” Grimmett said.
“I’ve had the pleasure of handicapping the likes of Chief De Beers and Vo Rogue; I think I got Vo Rogue beat one day by allocating him what proved to be too much weight.
“Although it won’t be remembered for the right reasons, to have played a part in the Fine Cotton affair is something I will never forget, and I still have my handwritten notes from that day.
“I just want to be remembered as a good handicapper, someone who did the job well and got the weights right.
“I loved every day of it, I walked in there early days and couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be getting paid to work in an industry I love – to do that for nearly 52 years is a privilege and an honour.”
Having spent more than half a century at the coalface of the industry, Grimmett will officially retire on June 30.
“To work in the Queensland racing industry for more than 50 years is an incredible accomplishment,” RQ CEO Brendan Parnell said.
“Lester has served the industry with distinction in his longevity, dedication to his craft and his incredible knowledge.
“We wish him all the best in retirement, and look forward to being able to welcome him on-course as a patron - a day that is long overdue for him.”