How did they avoid him? Tragedy averted as track invader stuns crowd in New Zealand

Horse Racing Melody Belle
Melody Belle: equalled Sunline’s record of 13 G1 wins on day of drama at Trentham. Photo: Race Images – Peter Rubery

By Jon Lees

New Zealand: A spectator put his life at risk and endangered horses and jockeys when he walked out onto the track in the middle of a race at Trentham.

The man astonished a large crowd gathered at the track’s Wellington Cup day when he climbed a fence and stood in the middle of the racecourse as a field of 18 horses rushed towards him at the climax to race eight.

Amazingly the field parted and the horses passed either side of him, as jockeys swerved left and right to ensure there was no impact with the track invader.

Jockey Jonathan Parkes, speaking to Andrew Bensley of NZ Racing News, said: “It was a bit of a shock. I was lucky to miss him to be honest. It must have been about 12 strides before I’d seen him. I was hoping he would stand still and didn’t move from thereon out. I had to decide which way I was going and ended up pulling on the right rein and just missed the bloke.

Parkes, whose mount Boston Strong Boy was declared a non-runner having been closest to the intruder, added: “We were all a little bit in shock and a little bit brassed off with the person. We’re lucky no one got hurt but it could have easily been a different outcome.”

Police subsequently arrested the man who was charged with a criminal nuisance offence. He is due to appear in court on Monday.

The incident overshadowed an historic day at Trentham where star mare Melody Belle equalled New Zealand great Sunline’s record for the most G1 victories with a 13th success in the Thorndon Mile.

That race too was marred when second favourite Rock On Wood broke down during the race and had to be put down.

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