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Glenorchy Race Meeting
Joe Deely - 9/6/00

- A very different side of Glenorchy...

Thousands of people flock to Queenstown to get away from it all and do something that's fun. It is such an exciting place to be; great night life and an amazing array of daytime activities to suit everyone's taste. However, for those that live and work in the town that hardly ever stops, the ubiquitous excitement can become a little tiresome. When I lived there I would sometimes get out of the fast lane and visit the tranquil lapping shores of Lake Wakatipu up around Glenorchy way. A gentle float in the cool waters without a human sound to be heard, except my own "oohs" and "ahs".

Glenorchy the town is also a peaceful place with only a few buildings nestled in a stunning backdrop of hills and mountains. One visit, however, I saw a very different side of Glenorchy; a rare glimpse of a town invaded by Queenstown's noisy and excited. It was the Glenorchy races!

The Glenorchy races are an annual event taking place early in the new year. I was taken by some friends for my first time to see the spectacle. When we arrived, there must have been a thousand people picnicking in the middle of the racetrack. A tent for tote here, a shack for a bar there. Outside the track a small members stand jammed with sunburned bodies. Upbeat chatter and laughter was tossed around the crowd.

Poppy was the town's one shining star jockey-a young woman who was certain to win every race she entered. The gossip about her racing talent was everywhere giving even the most inexperienced and unlucky punters a sure winner to back.

After nine races, and a similar number of glasses of champagne, the final race was about to start. It was the steeplechase and Glenorchy's shinning star was, of course, the sure bet. The anticipation grew and grew, everyone betting plenty on the last race hoping to recoup their losses.

Poppy's horse started well and was in the front by the first turn. The horses then went out of sight behind some trees but when they emerged out the other side Poppy was no where to be seen. The crowd immediately began to shoot questioning faces at each other. Gestures of puzzlement grew into a whisper and then a murmur all expressing the same question; what has happened to the Glenorchy golden girl?

Soon after the race an ambulance raced to where we had seen her last. It was revealed over the p.a. that the worst had happened and Poppy had taken a fall over one of the fences. She had broken her leg and would be out of the saddle for many months. The announcement hushed the crowd but soon the hubbub returned and the misfortune was forgotten. I would have expected that they might be worrying about their lost winnings, but no! At that moment there was almost an air of satisfaction among the crowds. A silent wish fulfilled as Glenorchy's shining star, the talk of the town, became, by way of injury, human again - the tall poppy had been cut.

You may wish to read related articles The Queenstown-Glenorchy Road and Glenorchy, Queenstown's Best Kept Secret.

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