Isaac Lupton brings Max back to the birdcage after combining with the Raymond Connors-trained gelding in the Waikato Steeplechase.
Max emerged as the latest star of the Connors family’s quality team with a last-to-first win in the Signature Homes Waikato Steeplechase at Te Rapa today.
Lining up as the $3.30 favourite in the 3900-metre feature, Max settled last in the running and was a conservative 12 lengths off the leaders heading into the final 1000 metres. Even at the top of the straight, with just one fence left to clear, his chances looked slim with several rivals still to get past.
But the Gallant Guru gelding’s stamina combined with a relentless ride from Isaac Lupton proved the winning of the $50,000 race as he reeled in Justa Charlie to win by two and a half lengths. Thenamesbond was two and a quarter lengths away in third, followed by Shamal and last year’s winner The Big Opal.
Wanganui dairy farmer Raymond Connors doesn’t restrict his training activities to jumpers. Dual New Zealand Cup winner Blood Brotha is his best flat performer, while less than an hour after Max’s Te Rapa win, Alamosa mare She’s Poppy scored a fresh-up win over Ringo and Ruby Armani in the Listed James Bull Rangitikei Gold Cup at Awapuni.
The most famous member of the jumps team prepared by Connors and raced in partnership with his father Mark is triple Great Northern Steeplechase winner Hypnotize. Both horses were bred at the Anderton family’s White Robe Lodge, but the synergies don’t end there as Max’s dam is a sister to Hypnotize.
Max came to light in the closing weeks of last jumps season with a maiden steeplechase win at Ellerslie but failed when switched back to the smaller fences in the Great Northern Hurdles. In his one remaining start he won a restricted open steeplechase at Wanganui and was back at the same venue to win a similar race first-up for the new jumps season.
“They went hard down the back and he was a bit flat trying to keep up,” said Lupton. “I wasn’t so sure if he could do it, but by the time we turned for home he had got going and I knew then he’d pick them up.”
Today’s win was the second for Lupton in the Waikato Steeplechase to go with the 2012 edition on Myths And Legends, while Raymond Connors tasted victory for the first time as an amateur rider on Our Jonty in 1998 before his first win as a trainer with Mikemendaad in 2009.
Max has now joined last year’s Great Northern Steeplechase winner Wise Men say as a leading prospect for steeplechase features in the months ahead. Wise Men Say, whose 2018 campaign began with a maiden hurdle win at Wanganui earlier this month, is likely to carry the green and red stable colours in the McGregor Grant Steeplechase back at Te Rapa on Queen’s Birthday weekend.
“We’re not keen to line them up against each other, so this horse (Max) might wait for races like the Hawke’s Bay Steeples and Wise Men Say can come here next month,” Connors said.
“He hasn’t been around Te Rapa before, so with the Great Northern being run here this year it’s probably a good idea to give him a bit of practice.”