Patrick Payne has sounded an ominous warning for rivals and is confident star chaser Zed Em can carry 70kg to victory and claim an historic fourth successive Von Doussa Steeplechase at Oakbank on Wednesday.
The Kiwi, who calls Australian home through the winter, will be trying to extend his flawless Oakbank record and claim a remarkable sixth Oakbank feature in the past five years in the $102,760 test.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Payne said.
“I know it a cliché, but he just seems as quick and has as much endeavour as ever.”
Payne said despite being a rising 11-year-old, Zed Em was blessed by not racing early in his career with Wednesday’s race just his 52nd in a career that has netted 17 wins and more the $1 million in prizemoney.
“I think that’s the key to him,” Payne said,
“Kevin Myers has looked after him in New Zealand. He didn’t race as a young horse and he hasn’t been overtaxed.”
And Payne said the horse wouldn’t be fazed by the big weight.
“He’s not as well weighted as previous years,” Payne said.
“And as much as it irks me to say it, it’s actually a fairer weight as far as far as the whole jumping industry is concerned.”
Former New Zealand rider Aaron Kuru will ride Zed Em in 2021. Kuru had at his first look at Oakbank on Sunday with two rides for fellow Kiwi, John Wheeler.
Kuru, who works for Payne, is most famous for pulling off one of the most extraordinary pieces of horsemanship at Awapuni in 2018.
He fell at the first before remounting his horse Des De Ju, before the pair completed one of the most amazing feats seen at a track by running down the race favourite in the shadows of the post.
The rider trying to bring down Zed Em will be Steven Pateman, who has ridden the star chaser at four of his five previous Oakbank wins.
Pateman will ride former European import Yensir, who boasts four wins from his five jumps starts and is now in the care of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace. Payne conceded Yensir was a definite danger, while having respect for a host of rivals
“Yensir has to be respected,” Payne said.
“And there are a couple of others who go well.
“Getting Leggie has run some good races in the past and a couple of times when things haven’t gone his own way.
“Searaven is a nice horse, Lucques is another very nice horse and Elvison jumps the live hedges at Casterton very well which should hold him in good stead at Oakbank.’
IMAGE: Keryn Stevens