Super jumper Hypnotize might be retired but pretty soon his place could be taken by super stayer Blood Brotha, narrow but gritty winner of today's $225,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Riccarton.
It came as no surprise when Whanganui cow cockie, cum owner-trainer Raymond Connors revealed the winner of the South Island's feature 3200m flat race had a future over fences considering he is best known for his deeds with Great Northern Steeplechase winners like Hypnotize and Our Jonty.
"I might try jumping him next winter," Connors said after Blood Brotha took a neck decision over The Jungle Boy in a real slog to the line in the heavy ground.
"We know he can stay anyway," Connors said greeting top jockey James McDonald as he returned to the birdcage.
Just two months ago Connors and his father Mark were the toast of Ellerslie as they lined up triple northern winner Hypnotize for a tilt at an unprecedented fourth win.
Hypnotize might not have won, but he came with a terrific late burst for third in his farewell race, a performance which the Connors have come to expect from all the stock they buy from the deep south.
Since the Connors first bid $6500 for Our Jonty at the South Island sale in 1993, and Raymond started riding him in races, they've been coming back to the well repeatedly, snaffling all the relations they can out of White Robe Lodge's offerings from Wingatui's Anderton family.
Blood Brotha, whose granddam Lal's Gift left Our Jonty, cost just $12,000 and there are a stack more waiting to be tried at their Whangaehu farm, outside Whanganui.
It's there in the ample space of their dairy farm, where they milk hundreds of cows daily, that the racehorses are left to mature into stayers and jumpers.
Blood Brotha, now six, is a much stronger version of the horse who struggled through the heavy tracks of the previous winter, Connors said.
The fact Blood Brotha won last year's cup lead-up the Metropolitan, on heavy ground, gave him some confidence.
"But it was a bit wetter than that today – I thought it might be too heavy for him." In his favour, however, was the fact Blood Brotha was qualified for the race.
"I think I trained him a bit better this year. Last year we had to win the race the week before the cup to get in but this time I was able to plan the right races to start in and he had a really good preparation.
"And the way he finished off last week (for fourth) I was quietly confident today.
"But winning these races is a dream," Connors said of his best flat race scalp.
Connors said he was likely now to give Blood Brotha his chance at the Auckland Cup in March – his record on good ground is much better than in the wet.
Connors will be hoping he can retain McDonald at Ellerslie, given his copybook ride yesterday.
McDonald reported Blood Brotha got through the ground surprisingly well.
"I was trying to get out at the 700 and couldn't but when we finally came out he was very good."
- © Fairfax NZ News