‘Awesome’ community spirit at race day

Thousands of revellers flocked to the 57th Glenorchy Races to see jockeys put through their paces in a quirky celebration of horse racing.

This year’s race meeting, at the township’s recreation ground on Saturday, included the 10 different races held each year, resulting in a few tumbles, returning champions being crowned and even a senior police officer on horseback clinging on to his jockey partner for dear life.

Visitors from all corners of the globe arrived in Glenorchy for the event, which organiser and Lakeside Rugby Club president Bruce Douglas said was "a big success" as usual.

Glenorchy rider Calder Houliston (right) and his horse Harry on the home straight in the...
Glenorchy rider Calder Houliston (right) and his horse Harry on the home straight in the galloping cup at the Glenorchy Races on Saturday. Photo: Joshua Walton

Glenorchy rider Calder Houliston and former racehorse Harry made a mad dash for the finish line in the galloping cup race, leaving other riders in the dust and securing the duo’s fifth consecutive win in the race.

The 44-year-old race-day regular said Harry was "running really good" and the atmosphere as they crossed the line showed how "awesome" the community spirit was at the event.

But Mr Houliston revealed it could be their last time entering the race.

Riders pick up their partners in the double-banking race.
Riders pick up their partners in the double-banking race.
"I’ve been thinking that for two years, so most likely I’ll be back next year but at this point it’s the last one."

A spectator who started to cross the track after thinking the galloping race was over was luckily able to retrace his steps before several horses came hurtling round the corner towards the home straight.

One of the day’s biggest success stories was that of local rider Grace Percy, who returned with vigour after multiple victories at the event in previous years, to win the saddling, ladies gallop and trotting cup races on three different horses.

Her father, Routeburn Station manager Stu Percy, and his horse Spider won the locals gallop race.

The highly entertaining double-banking race saw horses with one rider dash down the home straight and stop for another rider to clamber on as well, before turning round and sprinting back to the finish line.

Senior Sergeant John Fookes, of Queenstown, joined in with the fun and hopped on the back of his riding partner’s horse in the race, keeping a tight grip as the pair headed back to the finish line.

Riders compete in the relay race.
Riders compete in the relay race.
Glenlapa rider Wayne O’Connell tasted victory twice at the event, winning the double-banking race with his partner, riding Point 25, and also being part of the winning team of three in the relay race, riding Pepper Once Removed.

Mr O’Connell said his horses "all ran very well" and the team  had put in a lot of effort to get them race-ready.

He said the day was "absolutely brilliant" and "hats off to everyone" who helped make it possible.

The event also gave visitors the chance to hop on the track and take part in children’s running races and tug of war battles.

The crowd let out a loud cheer as a Mexican wave prompted by commentator Craig Ferguson made its way along the line of spectators between races.

About 50 horses and riders from across the country turned up for the event, with no injuries resulting from a few falls throughout the day.

The jubilant crowd did not let a few patches of light rain during an otherwise sunny day dampen their spirits, as many prepared to watch Queenstown band The Cellar Doors in the evening and camp at the ground overnight.

Mr Douglas said the "whole thing went off really well".

The event raised money for community groups in the township, with the total amount from the event yet to be counted.

joshua.walton@odt.co.nz

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