Photo courtesy RACING PHOTOS
Written by Steven Pateman
Jumps racing heads to Oakbank this Sunday for the famous Von Doussa Steeplechase. Traditionally run over the Easter weekend, it moved to its new timeslot last year.
In 2018 the club was rewarded for its bravery in making the move by attracting a really good field.
Sunday’s edition doesn’t look as strong, sadly. With Easter a little later this year and Warrnambool a fortnight after the Great Eastern Steeple (April 20), a few of the better chasers are being saved for the ’Bool.
However, there is plenty of quality in my Von Doussa mount — none other than the outstanding Zed Em.
He’s on course to become only the second horse to win three successive Von Doussa Steeples.
Chocolate Royal did it in 1978, 1979 and 1980 for Frank Bullock, with Bill Londregan on board. Zed Em won for Richard Cully in 2017 and I got him home last year.
Under the set-weights-plus-penalties conditions of the race we get in with only 69kg on a 64kg limit. That’ll make Zed Em really tough to beat.
I rode him in a steeple trial at Warrnambool on March 18 and he cruised around to finish second to I’ll’ava’half. He’s had one flat race since, finishing eighth.
Back over fences and at Oakbank, where he’s undefeated in three races, he should shine.
Looking for dangers, Grant Young’s Spying on You is very competitive and should run well.
Zataglio is going well for Eric Musgrove. I rode him at Hamilton on Monday. We finished third but he had 75kg and conceded the winner, Ours, nine kilos. We were beaten seven lengths.
That race will have brought Zataglio on nicely and he should run well in the Von Doussa.
Kid’s lookin’ good
I also like my chances of winning the Thomas Farms Hurdle at Oakbank.
I’m riding the Patrick Payne-trained Killarney Kid, who was a very impressive 17-length winner at Terang last start.
He hasn’t seen the undulating Oakbank track as yet but if he can handle all the twists and turns he’ll be very hard to beat.
Grant Young’s Exalted Lightning has won on the flat and over hurdles at his past two. He’ll also put up a good fight.
I rode October Date for Nick Smart when he finished fourth at Terang. He will have derived benefit from that run and can place.
Newbury shows promise
Hamilton this week (Monday) turned on two very competitive jumps races on a well prepared track.
Ours did a good job to win the steeple, and can win more races, but I’m not sure he’s a top-line chaser.
The Declan Maher-trained Newbury, who finished second, actually looks to have a brighter future in my opinion. He’ll be much better for Monday’s experience.
Tough decision ...
In the hurdle race at Hamilton I rode Our Yangtze into second placing behind Lucques.
I probably cost my horse the race. We were in front coming to the last obstacle but didn’t approach it well. I had two options ... get him to try to make a long jump or try and get an extra stride in and jump a little closer to the hurdle.
My instinct kicked in and we took the extra stride. He was a bit slow through the air and was flat-flooted on landing. He got going on the flat and finished well but was narrowly beaten.
Maybe the long jump would have been a winning move. However, he’d fallen doing that at Ballarat last winter so who knows?
It’s one of those split-second calls you make. I copped a bit of flak for it but I’ll trust my instinct to be right more often than not.