There's a line from the Victorian poet, Pam Brown, that goes: be wary of a horse with a sense of humour.
It's probably unlikely that jockey Josh Parr was thinking about Pam Brown when he threw his leg over the Chris Waller-trained three-year-old gelding Influential for the Spring Stakes on the weekend. It's more likely that he was thinking about his earlier win on Lekvarte - one of the best backed runners on the day - in Race 4. Or maybe he was just focused on the job ahead.
In any case, his mount had different ideas.
After a flutter in the mounting yard, the cheeky Bay threw a minor tantrum on the ride around to the barrier for the 1600-metre race for three-year-olds, and managed to temporarily unseat his rider.
(At that point, it's probably safer to say that Parr was thinking about the first two rules of horse riding; rule one: Get in the saddle. Rule two: stay there.)
The horse reared and tossed its head as steward and jockey worked to calm him down, moments after Parr slipped off his saddle to the ground.
"Sometimes they get a little bit playful," Newcastle Racecourse CEO Duane Dowell told Topics after a bumper weekend for events in Newcastle. "Horses are very intelligent animals and sometimes they get a bit too playful even for their own jockeys.
"It's not a matter of trying to get them off, it's just like any other athlete - sometimes they want to go out and race and sometimes they want to be a bit more playful."
Mr Dowell said neither horse nor rider were injured in any way in the minor tiff before the pair were reunited and cantered off to the barrier ahead of the start.
"Sometimes, the only injury is a bruised ego," Mr Dowell said, laughing, "He probably copped a bit from the other jockeys when they found out."
The region's million-dollar race - renamed in 2023 as the Newcastle Herald Hunter - was the standalone NSW meeting at the weekend and coincided with the other major event on Saturday; the RAAF's Newcastle Air Show that saw thousands fill the sand on Nobbys to see the pilots turn it up over the water.
Across town, at Broadmeadow, you could see the occasional plane fly overhead as the turf was similarly buzzing for the annual race meet.
It proved a storybook day for the city as the aptly named Coal Crusher led the way home to win the signature race, steered by jockey Tyler Schiller, who had only recently come out of his apprenticeship and into the senior ranks.
"Every year, The Hunter produces some really great stories," Mr Dowell said. "It was such an impressive win for Joe Pride [who trained Coal Crusher] who has had a lot of success in the spring already; he was the trainer who won the Everest as well."
Local horse Genzano, trained by Paul Messara and Leah Gavranich at Scone, went on to win the Spring Stakes with Influential racing fiercely after a bump early out of the gates but ultimately trailing the pack across the line.
"It was [Leah's] first group winner, so that is a day she will never forget," Mr Dowell said. "And for someone like Paul Messara, who has trained, I think, now more than 20 group winners, it was one of the most pleasing wins he has ever had as a trainer."
In an interesting aside, punters would have noticed a few of the runners at the weekend were decked - aside from their regular racing colours and tack - in a pair of equine ear muffs, which look a bit like a pair of socks that cover both ears.
Ear muffs are a fairly common pacifying tool for race horses, along with blinkers, winkers and the occasional nose roll - that are meant to help the racer focus and filter out some of the outside noise and distraction of a big crowd or, in the case of The Hunter at the weekend, the potential for low flying aircraft.
Mr Dowell said the racecourse had worked closely with Air Show organisers when it became apparent the major local race would coincide on the same weekend, and encouraged trainers to bring the muffs along as a precaution. Notably, it was another Chris Waller-trained racer - the legendary Winx - which popularised the muffs during her heyday of racing.
"They were probably being used sporadically up to that point," Mr Dowell said. "But certainly since then, they have become more common. Most races that you will see the horses, during the parading before the race, you'll see a decent percentage of those horses wearing earmuffs and it just helps keep them settled."
As Coal Crusher crossed the finish line, the memorable moment for the day was captured when young strapper Brave Pride - who had only this year finished his HSC - embraced his dad.
"And I turned around, it was the first thing I saw was those two embracing," Mr Dowell said. "That's what this day is all about, those sort of moments."