The Connors family is hoping the recipe to success in Saturday’s Gr.3 Winter Cup (1600m) at Riccarton is a refreshed jockey and a fresh horse.
Raymond Connors will saddle up She’s Poppy in the Winning Edge Presentations-sponsored 1600m feature with regular rider Shaun McKay in the saddle.
McKay has just returned from an Australian holiday with his partner, last season’s Premiership winning jockey Sam Collett, and a Winter Cup win would be a perfect start to the new season.
Connors has purposely set She’s Poppy for the Winter Cup and the seven-year-old will go into the race freshened since splitting Tomelilla and Winter Cup rival Taurus in the Listed Ag Challenge Stakes (1590m) at Wanganui on June 2.
“We could have taken her north for those races like the Kiwifruit Cup and Taumarunui Cup, but we’ve kept her for this one,” said Connors’ father, Mark, who part-owns the daughter of Alamosa.
“She goes so well fresh and she’s done well at a mile. She beat Ladies First fresh-up over a mile at New Plymouth one day.”
She’s Poppy was ridden in that win in May last year by McKay, who has been a regular rider for the Connors stable and been aboard in four of her seven wins. The most recent of those was two starts ago when defeating Ringo in the Listed James Bull Rangitikei Gold Cup (1550m).
“Shaun gets on well with her and he’s an under-rated rider,” Connors said. “He’s ridden a lot of winners for us.”
There is no doubt Connors will have her fit enough for the task. He’s been there and done it before with so many of his horses when set for big races, including successive New Zealand Cups with Blood Brotha.
“If she goes well she could back up the following Saturday,” said Connors, referring to the Christchurch Casino Winter Classic (1800m).
The Connors stable will have two other runners on Saturday with the main focus on the top jumper Wise Men Say in the NZI Koral Steeplechase (4250m).
Since beating Upper Cut in last year’s Great Northern Steeplechase (6400m), Wise Men Say has returned this year to win fresh-up in a maiden hurdle and pick up a placing in the Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase (4800m) before scoring a decisive win last start in the Wellington Steeplechase (5500m).
He has gone up 2kgs to 72kgs as a result of the Trentham win and Connors knows it’s a tough ask on Saturday when he will again be ridden by the country’s leading jumps jockey, Isaac Lupton.
“He’s well and the weight makes it tough, but it should top him off for the Grand National,” he said.
The distance of the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) next weekend will be more to Wise Men Say’s liking and, provided he comes through it in good order, he will again tackle the Great Northern Steeplechase on September 9.
“The Great Northern will be so different this year, being at Te Rapa,” Connors said. “It’ll be a completely different type of race than usual.” – NZ Racing Desk