The familiar colours of the Connors family were to the fore in a major jumping race in New Zealand once again on Saturday when consistent fencer Mesmerize produced a comprehensive performance to take out the Signature Homes Waikato Steeplechase (3900m) at Te Rapa.
The rising twelve-year-old has proved a revelation of late, winning his last four races over the steeplechase fences after being somewhat of a bridesmaid earlier in his career where he had finished runner-up in ten of his previous 27 jumping starts.
Settled towards the rear of the seven-horse field on Saturday, Mesmerize and rider Shaun Fannin travelled sweetly throughout before moving into contention down the back straight the last time.
Fannin had plenty of horse under him as he hit the front with one fence to clear in the run home before striding away from gallant pacemaker and last year’s winner It’s A Wonder to take out the contest by just over two lengths at the winning post.
Trainer Raymond Connors, who shares in the ownership of the Yamanin Vital gelding with his father Mark, was at a loss to explain why his charge was finally starting to produce his best as he comes towards the end of his racing career.
“I can’t believe it really and I’m not sure what has done it for him as he used to like running second a fair bit,” Connors said.
“It does seem he really has gained his confidence since he started winning, which is about time, and you can’t beat confidence.
“He travelled superbly throughout and was really strong when he made his challenge for Shaun.
“It was a lovely ride as he saved him up for the last run at them, which worked out perfectly.
“He had beaten Zentangle first up and we knew he would be one of the horses to beat today, although I did have a little bit of concern that it was his first time around the steeplechase course at Te Rapa, but in the end, he coped with that without a problem.”
Connors will now look to the next feature jumping event in the north, the McGregor Grant Steeplechase (4150m) at Ellerslie on June 7, as a target for his charge.
“We will give him a crack at the McGregor Grant next as he likes it at Ellerslie,” he said.
“He has won his last two over the hill there, so it fits him well.
“After that we will have a look around as I don’t think he is a Great Northern Steeplechase-type as three times over the hill might be a bit much for him.
“There are plenty of other good races over the winter and with this likely to be his last campaign, it would nice if he could pick up another big race.”