A flawed golfer stunned a group of jockeys by hitting their horses halfway through the $ 125,000 Great Northern Steeplechase in Ellerslie on Saturday.
Spectators across the country as well as the large crowd from Ellerslie were thrilled when the golfer, who was playing on the pitch and putt course at Ellerslie’s racetrack, landed on the obstacle course after a misdirected shot.
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He had hit his ball over a guard rail on the circuit in central Auckland and was leaving to play his next shot without realizing that the horses were galloping down the exact same piece of grass.
The golfer reacted about 50 meters before the horses came to him and all jockeys could avoid him.
“We all yelled at him, he was obviously more interested in his ball than the race,” said jockey Shaun Fannin, who led the race on Magic Wonder and won New Zealand’s most famous obstacle race.
“When he heard us and saw us coming, he pointed to his ball to show us what he was doing there.
“But we just wanted him to get hell out of the way.
“Really, that’s something you never expect during a race.”
Ellerslie is New Zealand’s most famous racetrack and not only has the shortened golf course but also a driving range within the actual track where the horses run.
This is not a problem on most racing days as the golf courses are too far from the sections of the track used for flat races for this to be a problem.
But Ellerslie also hosts a handful of obstacle races each season, where horses jump over large brush fences and race up the famous Ellerslie Hill. These horses cut through the middle of the track with another strip of grass, bringing them closer to the golf courses.
The two met in an imperfect storm that could have ended much worse.
“The guy just made a mistake,” said Paul Wilcox, general manager of the Auckland Racing Club.
“The golf center staff immediately pulled him aside, asked for his ID and asked us what we want to do, but we won’t do anything about him.
“He just made one mistake and didn’t notice the horses were using this stretch of track, which is fair, but they don’t do that for a few races a season.”
The respected race commentator George Simon was less forgiving and described the lost golfer in his call for the race as an “absolute sucker”.
That wasn’t the only drama in the famous race in which four jockeys were ousted and, unfortunately, a horse Perry Mason, which had to be humanely destroyed after a broken leg.
This incident happened just a few hundred yards after the field passed the golfer, but jockey Shaun Phelan confirmed to the NZ Herald that the two incidents were unrelated.
Jockey Emily Farr was hospitalized with a suspected broken collarbone after an earlier fall in the race.
This article originally appeared in the NZ Herald and was republished with permission
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