Star Kiwi jumper Zed Em heads to Warrnambool on Tuesday for a crucial steeplechase trial over 2800m as he looks to defend his crown in Tuesday week’s A$315,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) at a revamped Warrnambool Carnival.
The nine-year-old son of Zed was sent out $1.55 favourite for the Spencer Memorial Chase (3500m) at Pakenham just over a week ago but finished last, beaten 26 lengths.
However, trainer Patrick Payne, who prepares the former Kevin Myers-trained gelding when he is domiciled in Victoria, believes Zed Em can quickly turnaround his form. “The jumping program has been a little bit up in the air,” he said. “We were mad keen to go to Oakbank, but that wasn’t able to happen. I suppose we all have to make sacrifices and we’re glad we’ve got the first day of Warrnambool Carnival to look forward to. It should be really good.
“Let’s hope that Zed Em can bounce back. He was disgraceful at Pakenham but he pulled up really well. “He is going to have a testing trial at Warrnambool on Tuesday and we’re going to treat it pretty much like a race, just to see that he is okay. “Hopefully he shows he is on track for the Grand Annual.”
Payne said he was keen to see Zed Em back at a dedicated jumping course. “He is a really genuine horse but it is a different track Pakenham,” he said. “He loves the novelty course where there are a lot of fences and that keeps him a bit interested but he pretty much didn’t take part in the race at Pakenham. “That is not the horse. He is a very genuine horse and he pulled up in excellent order from it, so we will get a much better guide after Tuesday’s trial.”
Also taking part in the star-studded trial is the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Ablaze, who has proved a revelation since being sourced from the Brian and Shane Anderton-stable in New Zealand. The son of Raise The Flag won last year’s JJ Houlahan Hurdle (3200m) as well as the lucrative Jericho Cup (4600m) on the flat.
Meanwhile, Slowpoke Rodriguez, another former Kevin-Myers trained jumper now in Payne’s care, showed he was on-song for a Warrnambool tilt when finishing fifth behind exciting stayer Dark Alley at Geelong on Sunday. “He is going really well. He is heading towards the Brierly Steeplechase (3450m),” Payne said.