Race crowd ‘the best one yet’
Class went out the window as favourite Lazarus won the headline event at Christchurch’s Addington Raceway yesterday.
Jubilant winners embraced prematurely, teary, leaving perfectly placed fascinators skewed and groomed hair ruffled as the overwhelming crowd pick rounded the corner and started up the home stretch.
The generational divide evident throughout yesterday at the raceway was set aside as punters young and old packed shoulder to shoulder in the stands to enjoy Canterbury’s premier harness horse-racing event, the New Zealand Trotting Cup.
Over-enthusiastic embraces were one of the only signs of disorder during the much-anticipated event, with emergency services praising the 20,000-strong crowd’s good behaviour.
St John event commander Chris O’Mahony said it had been a ‘‘pretty mundane’’ day at the office, much the same as last year. Fewer than 30 people were seen by paramedics and, of those, most wanted a plaster to soothe a niggly blister or a safety pin for a ripped dress, he said.
‘‘We saw a couple for intoxication but most of those were dealt with by security or the recovery tent. One fell into a fence and got a bit beaten up, another cut his finger. Nothing major. You can’t complain about that.’’
Seven people were arrested over the course of the day – three for trespass outside the venue, two for alcohol detox, one for disorderly behaviour and one on a warrant to arrest. A booze ban around the venue was strictly enforced to curb problems with pre-loading that had been experienced in previous years.
Senior Sergeant Gordon Spite said the crowd had been ‘‘remarkably good’’.
‘‘This would be the best ones I’ve been at by a country mile.’’
He applauded the work of organisers for keeping problems to a minimum. ‘‘I take my hat off to them really; I think they are doing a great job.’’
Those who overindulged in the day’s beverage offerings were plucked from the crowd, often followed by a flock of jolly friends carting high heels and clutches, and escorted to the chill-out area, most without a fuss.
As if on script, pony punters fortunate enough to have secured a seat in the final race rose to their feet and the hum of the commenter was drowned out by the roar of the crowd and flailing race booklets as back-to-back winner Lazarus, driven by Rolleston based trainer Mark Purdon, crossed the line ahead of his nearest rival, Jack’s Legend. Squinted eyes were glued to the track, shielded by unsteady hands from the height of the late spring sun.
The 5.15pm race marked the end of what had been a day of beverages, bets and banter for more than 20,000 racegoers, with most of those who were still steady on their feet filing out of the venue in a mass exodus.
A group of teenagers, including Johnny Clay and Ben White, had made the popular beer garden home for most of the day. White plastic chairs lay discarded with most revellers preferring a grassy spot to curl up on. Betting tickets went mostly unchecked and forgotten, tucked away under dirty takeaway polystyrene burger containers. Clay said despite having limited knowledge of the sport, the group of lads he was with had not shied away from visiting the
TAB and pulled in a few wins.
Mark Purdon celebrates with owners Philip and Glenys Kennard and their daughters after the Cup presentation.
Lazarus, driven by Mark Purdon, wins the New Zealand Cup at Addington Raceway.