You just have to love steeplechases when horses have the width of a cigarette paper between them.
Even better when the pair are stablemates.
I've Got This stayed true to his name when he got the last bound in during the final stages of yesterday's $50,000 Elexrolux McGregor Grant Steeplechase at Ellerslie.
No one would have better enjoyed the finish of the race that carried his name than Australian surgeon and former chairman of the Auckland Racing Club, the late Dr Alex McGregor Grant.
"The Doctor", as he was known in racing circles, would have preferred to be on one of the jumps runners. As an amateur, he won races at Ellerslie and in his real job was extracting organs from some of Auckland's most prominent citizens.
Yesterday's was a mystery race going forward to the major racing events.
Topweight Amanood Lad looked to have the two he was battling it out with covered with two fences to jump. Rider, top class Australian Steve Pateman, was dislodged after the second last jump and on television coverage it looked almost as though he may have been hampered, so we needed to be guided. But officialdom did nothing about it, so that's that.
The winning rider Shaun Fannin had his best day. "Yes, I've had a big day at Te Rapa, but this rates right up there."
"I've always thought he was up to this grade and he has proved it now," Fannin said.
"It was a great finish."
Bred and raced by the Hawkins family of Wentwood Grange, I've Got This improved from the back of the field on the final circuit and answered every call from his rider from the top of the straight to collar Snodrop-twinkletoes in the shadows of the post.
"He was a bit flat coming down the hill, but he is very tough," Fannin said.
"After we jumped the last he really dug deep and got home strongly. He was a little bit green around some of the tighter turns and he's going to keep improving."
I've Got This was successful at his previous start at Hawera. The horse began his life with Janelle Millar at New Plymouth before he transferred to the Kevin Myers camp two years ago and he has now won three times over the big fences.
Brer finished third after he had been left in front when Amanood Lad parted company with Pateman.
Trainer Ben Foote found a silver lining in Amanood Lad losing Pateman at the second last.
"At least he won't have to carry 72kg in the big one [Great Northern] after that."
Earlier in the programme, Mathew Gillies got the best of Fannin as well when D'Llaro took the K.S. Brown Hurdles.
Without being unfair, D'Llar looked average for a couple of seasons, holding his own without writing headlines, but yesterday's victory over the top-class Sea King put him potentially in a different league.
"Most people don't realise how good this horse is," said trainer Graeme Lord, a former jumps jockey.
Sharing in the ownership is blacksmith Kim Hughes and John McGifford, both if whom rose over fences.
Gillies rides extensively for Sea King's trainer Myers and was successful for the Wanganui horseman aboard Crash Bandicoot earlier in the day, as well as stablemates Ngario and Billy Elliot at Wingatui, near Dunedin, on Sunday.
D'Llaro measured his fences well in front and Gillies said he was confident of holding the challenge of Sea King - who hung badly in the run home - at bay with his 6kg pull in the weights.
"He's as tough as old boots and we had 65kg compared to Sea King's 71. There will be more in store for this horse."
D'Llaro is trained by his part-owner and former top jumps jockey Lord, who said victory in the K.S. Browne Hurdle was emotional.
"I never rode for the man, but I did ride against him."
Meanwhile, Gillies believes Crash Bandicoot can be a player in the Great Northern Steeplechase.
"He's looking good for September, there's a lot of improvement in him," he said. "He jumped brilliantly."
Part-owned by Jo Rathbone, Crash Bandicoot settled off the pace in the Faceup-Low Fees in Real Estate Steeplechase before he moved into contention down the hill for the final time and then raced clear to score by 10 lengths.
- Additional reporting: NZ Racing Desk