A veteran Santa Anita Park paddock guard was hospitalized Saturday after shielding a 9-year-old girl from a runaway horse.
Just before the third race, 90-year-old John Shear was at his usual post when the horse broke free and charged toward the girl.
"Shear, instead of dropping the perimeter rope he was holding and protecting himself, ran in front of the loose horse and threw himself in front of and on top of the young girl in the crowd," according to a statement from Santa Anita Park.
A witness told KCAL-TV, "The horse came full speed and the horse's shoulder hit John in the head."
"He's a strong man. He's been through tough things before," said witness Aaron Hesz.
The girl, who was not injured, left the park with her family, City News Service reported.
Shear, who is known around the track as "Little John," has been a fixture at Santa Anita for decades.
The horse, a 3-year-old gelding named Sea and Sage, was corralled and returned to his stable. The horse was not injured.