An errant golfer stunned a cluster of jockeys by walking into the path of their horses midway through Saturday’s $125,000 Great Northern Steeplechase at Ellerslie.
But Auckland Racing Club bosses say it was a simple mistake and no charges will be laid.
Viewers around the country watching, as well as the huge Ellerslie crowd, were gobsmacked when the golfer, playing on the pitch and putt course inside Ellerslie’s racetrack, ended up on the steeplechase track after a misdirected shot.
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He had hit his ball over a guard rail at the central Auckland racetrack and went to play his next shot without realising the horses were about to gallop down the exact same stretch of grass.
The golfer reacted about 50m before the horses got to him and all jockeys were able to avoid him.
“We were all yelling at him, he obviously was more interested in his ball than the race,” said jockey Shaun Fannin, who was leading the race on Magic Wonder and went on to win New Zealand’s most iconic steeplechase.
“When he heard us and saw us coming he started pointing at his ball to show us what he was doing there.
“But we just wanted him to get the hell out of the way.
“Really, that is something you never expect to see during a race.”
Ellerslie is New Zealand’s most famous racecourse and has not only the shortened golf course but a driving range inside the actual track the horses race on.
That presents no problem on most race days as the golf facilities are too far from the parts of the track used for flat racing for it to be a problem.
But Ellerslie also hold a handful of steeplechase races each season, where horses jump large brush fences and race up the fame Ellerslie hill, and those horses cut through the middle of the track using a difference strip of grass, bringing them closer to the golfing areas.
The two met in an imperfect storm that could have ended so much worse.
“The guy just made a mistake,” Auckland Racing Club chief executive Paul Wilcox said.
“The staff from the golf centre immediately pulled him aside, asked for his ID and asked us what we want to do, but we aren’t going to take any action against him.
“He just made a mistake and didn’t realise the horses use that stretch of the track, which to be fair, but for a few races a season they don’t.”
Respected race commentator George Simon was less forgiving, labelling the lost golfer an “absolute d***head,” in his call of the race.
That wasn’t the only drama in the famous race, with four jockeys dislodged and sadly one horse Perry Mason, having to be humanely destroyed after breaking a leg.
That incident happened only a few hundred metres after the field passed the golfer, but jockey Shaun Phelan confirmed to the NZ Herald the two incidents were unrelated.
Jockey Emily Farr was taken to hospital after an earlier fall in the race with a suspected broken collarbone.
This article originally appeared in the NZ Herald and was republished with permission
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