A larger-than-life Max Whitby posed for the winning photo with Mr Align after yesterday's $23,500 EIF International McGregor Grant Steeplechase at Ellerslie and said: "What am I doing?"

What the Sydneysider meant was: "What am I doing racing a jumper?"

Especially as on Saturday, Whitby and co-trainer Graeme Rogerson posed for a similar photo in the Eagle Farm birdcage after Scarlett Lady's A$400,000 Queensland Oaks victory.

Mr Align and Scarlett Lady are two of the 60-something horses Whitby has shares in.

He accepted gracefully that, oh well, winning a jumps race is all part of the fun.

One race earlier, he had watched another of his, Cape Kinaveral, finish unplaced in the $23,500 K S Browne Hurdles.

"I've been racing him [Cape Kinaveral] for about six years.

"I've even got a trotter with Rogey, but I'm not sure for how long."

Whitby loves the racing culture. Saturday night's Brisbane celebration hadn't cleared from his head when he boarded an Auckland-bound flight on Sunday to watch his two jumpers race.

Typical of the fortunes of racing, not everyone in the camp was celebrating.

Rogerson staff member Daniel Oakden, who was due to ride Mr Align and Cape Kinaveral, came up short in a three-day bid to shed 5kg that would allow him the mounts at 63kg.

"I feel sorry for Daniel," said Rogerson after the presentation.

"I looked at him at 4.30 this morning and I knew he was in trouble.

"He'd spent five hours in a hot bath on Sunday and said this morning he still had 1kg to lose.

"Even if he'd been able to lose that 1kg, I knew he wouldn't be in the right shape to do the horses justice."

Oakden recommended as his replacement Irishman Derek Nolan, who has been mixing flat and jumps riding lately and doing an excellent job.

That also nearly ended in disaster. Mr Align, relatively inexperienced, botched the first jump on the Hill the last time and nearly sold out. "I thought we were gone and I dropped my whip in the mix-up," said Nolan.

The Irishman displayed top levels of fitness to punch Mr Align along without a whip, even though the favourite Climbing High looked certain to win two fences from the finish.

But Shelley Houston had asked a lot of Climbing High to sprint from the second fence on top of the Hill, perhaps impacting a little on what energy levels the favourite had left when he hit the very testing ground in the home straight from the 450m.

Even over the last Climbing High looked safe, but he hit the wall at the 220m and Mr Align easily dashed past him late.

Graeme Rogerson did not want to forget Daniel Oaken, who he holds in high regard. "He'll be back on both horses next time if they get his weight."

This was a win that might not have happened.

High hopes were held for Mr Align early in his career. He is by speed sire Align from a Sound Reason mare who is a half sister to Melbourne Cup winner Kensei.

But he proved so slow he couldn't get out of his own way.

"Two years ago I wanted to quit him," admitted Rogerson, "but a couple of the owners wanted to keep him going, so I stayed in and we've spent two years making a jumper out of him."

It was an appropriate win for Derek Nolan, who came to New Zealand 18 months ago on holiday, met a girlfriend and stayed.

There was a fair bit of money to say the country's best jumper Hypnotize could win under 72kg - 9kg more than the winner - in his first start in 275 days.

But the task proved to be as big as it looked on paper. Hypnotize looked well - he almost looks as though he's finally bulked up a bit at rising 12 - and raced fairly keenly for him to be mid-field and closer to the lead than usual for the first round, but was well off the bit down the back straight the last time. He'll keep.

Predictably, the last word went to Max Whitby.

He was happy to infer that he had done very well on the punt over the weekend without declaring details.

"I love coming to New Zealand, I really do.

"Someone here has even taught me to drink beer at 11 on Monday mornings. I don't know who that was."

It wasn't his co-trainer - he hasn't had a drink in 30 years.

And the really important part - will the team back up Scarlett Lady in Saturday's A$500,000 Queensland Derby?

"We'll decide tomorrow when we get the bloods [blood count results]," said Whitby.