Peter Davies has ridden England’s famous Grand National racecourse at Aintree – now he’s chasing glory in Saturday’s Glenorchy Cup.
Davies, owner of horse-riding company Dart Stables, rode a lap of the Grand National steeplechase circuit in the 1987 and 1989 runnings of the Topham Chase – the lead-up race to the National itself.
“When you’re 18 or 19, you don’t give a damn,” he says of the tricky 16-jump course that’s toppled hundreds of horses in the race’s 172-year history.
Davies didn’t win the Topham either year but later nabbed the Kingwell Hurdles, a trial race for Britain’s prestigious Champion Hurdles.
In about 600 race mounts, he rode for top British trainers Henrietta Knight, Nicky Henderson and Jim Old before swapping jumps for sports commentating in 1993.
The 40-year-old landed in New Zealand in 1995 to train horses with experienced jumps horseman David Miller in Tauranga, then discovered Glenorchy and “never left”.
Davies has been circling the first Saturday in January ever since – that’s the day he returns to the track for the wild Glenorchy Races.
The country race meet – held for the 47th time this Saturday – allows only “hack” horses to race on the tight 800-metre course on the Glenorchy Recreation Ground.
Farm horses from Lake Wakatipu sheep stations are a common sight at this raceday.
The Glenorchy Galloping Cup is the main event but other races on the card include barrel races and a locals race.
“I normally ride in about four races out of 10 – that’s as much as I can manage nowadays,” says Davies, who’s pounded the course for 13 consecutive years and also commentates the races as a sidelight.
“I haven’t yet managed to win the Glenorchy Cup, my main aim. When I do that, I may retire from it.”
The expat Pom says the local course isn’t like any he rode in England – “it’s just a gallop around the golf course, really” – but he loves the thrill of the chase.
“It can be hairy out there because it’s a pretty tight course – but it’s good fun.”
Day at the races
Where: Glenorchy Recreation Ground, corner Mull and Oban Streets, 45min from Queenstown
When: Saturday 11am-5pm (Sunday if bad weather)
What: “Hack” horseracing – 10 races, including the Glenorchy Galloping Cup, novelty events and a kids’ barrel race
How much: Adults $10, children free, proceeds to Community Association
Bets: Equalisator betting – a bit like a raffle, your selection is chosen for you
Food & drink: BBQ, strawberries and cream, beer tent
After: Entertainment at Glenorchy Hotel with band Fiddler on the Hoof