Zed Em was being toasted on both sides of the Tasman when he was hailed as the King of Oakbank at the popular South Australian meeting on Saturday.
Three of Zed Em’s five Wairarapa owners had a raceday experience they will never forget when being on course to watch the horse they refer to as Bobby extend his unbeaten Oakbank record to five with the completion of the Von Doussa (3250m) – Great Eastern Steeplechase (4950m) double for the second year in succession.
Last year Zed Em became the first horse to land the Von Doussa – Great Eastern Steeplechase double since the John Wheeler-trained Tobouggie Nights in 2012 and the pressure was on him on Saturday for a repeat after winning the Von Doussa for the third successive year a couple of weeks earlier.
‘’It was great when he did it last year, but this year there was a lot more pressure on him being the hot favourite,’’ part-owner and co-breeder Mike Southey said.
‘’We were a bit more tense, but he did it. He’d been set for it right through summer. Dummy (Kevin Myers) got him ready at home then sent him over to Patrick Payne like he has done each year. Patrick has done the rest. It’s been a great team effort.’’
Southey and his wife, Roz, had also been on hand for Zed Em’s third successive Von Doussa win and fellow part-owner, Bill Shannon, made the trip over from his Wairarapa farm to be on hand for Saturday’s triumph.
‘’Dummy and Patrick are a perfect combination,’’ Shannon said. ‘’Dummy sent him over fit and prepared for Oakbank and Patrick was able to put the winning polish on him.”
This season Myers gave Zed Em a trial at Waverley in December then one flat start, for a fourth over 1900m at Wairoa in February, before sending him to Payne, who topped him off with a couple of trials, a flat run at Ballarat and a refresher school over the Oakbank course as part of his preparation for a second Von Doussa – Great Eastern Steeplechase double.
‘’It was a pretty special day for us,’’ Shannon said. ‘’Zed Em just loves Oakbank. The more jumps, the better he prefers it. He just flies over them.’’
Zed Em’s latest victory was the fifth Great Eastern Steeplechase win for Payne and the sixth for successful jockey Steve Pateman.
“Steve is a great jumps jockey and gets on with Zed Em so well,’’ Roz Southey said. ‘’ They fit like a hand in a glove.”
Taken to the lead early by Pateman, Zed Em controlled the last lap to score by three and three-quarter lengths from Spying On You, who had also chased him home when second in the Von Doussa.
The Southeys and Shannon share in the ownership of Zed Em with another neighbouring Wairarapa couple, Craig and Jenny Booth. ‘’We’ve all been friends for years,’’ Shannon said.
The farming friends bred Zed Em from Don’t Kick My Float, a Paris Opera mare who won one flat race over 2100m at Trentham in 2007.
“Zed, his sire, was standing at $500 at the time,’’ Mike Southey said. ‘’We only bred two from the mare and they’re both by Zed. The other is Guy Fox.’’
Trained by Myers, Guy Fox has won five races and shows promise as a jumper with two wins over hurdles, but he well and truly lives in Zed Em’s shadow.
Eight-year-old Zed Em has earned over $840,000 in prizemoney, the result of 15 wins with his biggest paydays coming in Australia where he has notched nine of his 11 steeplechase victories.
Myers has been sending Zed Em to Payne for four years and the result has been success on each trip. He won his Australian debut at Gawler in 2016 and in 2017 his seven Australia starts resulted in four wins and two seconds then last year he picked up two wins and three seconds from seven outings.
Those placings last year included a second in the Grand Annual (5500m) at Warrnambool and Pateman is confident he can go one better in the feature on May 2.
‘’I thought he was unlucky not to have won last year’s Annual,’’ Pateman said. “He seems to be a lot more relaxed at his jumps this year. I had no hesitation six weeks ago putting my hand up to ride Zed Em in this year’s Grand Annual and I wouldn’t swap the ride.’’ - NZ Racing Desk