The phrase “Florida man” has become something of an international in-joke, referring to crazy and often criminal behavior by the sunshine’s state population. Well, now the term can be expanded to include “Florida fauna” as evidenced by the surprise appearance of an alligator on the track during a race at Tampa Bay Downs.
It happened on February 24th during the sixth race of the day. The creature lives in the in-track pond and apparently decided it was time for a stroll ‒and a snack. Jockey Manny Jimenez, who was riding Papa Jimmy, told The Mirror, “By the time I see the gator we were pretty close to each other and his head was looking at us in the path my horse is running. I knew right away that I was not going to be able to make it around the gator and I didn’t want to run the risk of leaving it easy to the gator to bite my horse.”
Jimenez took evasive action and rode his horse towards the tail of the reptile, ensuring his mount could see the gator in its path. “Horses are smart enough that they know how to avoid problems and if he sees where he is stepping, he is going to step hard on the ground, and I knew he would not step on the gator.”
You can watch video of the incident on Twitter, where it looks as though at least one of the horses struck the alligator on the track. It even appears that the reptile attempted to bite a couple of horses on the way by, too, in what was probably a defensive move. There was one claim of foul in the race, although not against the gator.
From video it looks a trailing horse hit the alligator. pic.twitter.com/eY1nz9nLuC
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) February 25, 2023
This isn’t the first, nor likely last time, that an alligator has crashed a Florida racecourse. Luckily no one was hurt, but there is no word on the gator’s fate, however.