Roz Southey couldn’t resist a tongue-in-cheek comment when describing the thrill of Zed Em’s amazing win under 70kgs when leading home a New Zealand-bred trifecta in the Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) at Warrnambool on Thursday.
Southey and her husband, Mike, co-bred and part-own Zed Em with their fellow Wairarapa farming friends, Bill Shannon and Craig and Jenny Booth and she says she will never forget the day, being among the massive crowd gathered at Warrnambool for the highly popular annual feature.
“It’s probably better than getting married,’’ Southey said. “We were confident he would go well, but I was terribly, terribly nervous before the race.
“He just loves what he does and he and Steve (Pateman) are such a great combination. Steve is such a true gentleman and such a great rider.
“We’re so very lucky to have a horse like him and through him we’ve met so many people, like Patrick (trainer Patrick Payne) and the neat staff working for him.”
Shannon was also on hand with the Southeys to witness Zed Em become just the eighth horse in 143 years to land the Von Doussa Steeplechase (3250m) – Great Eastern Steeplechase (4950m) double at Oakbank then take the Grand Annual in the same year. Zed Em also won the Oakbank double last year and is unbeaten in five starts on that course.
“The lads had a big night celebrating, but I came back to the motel,” Southey said.
“Craig and Jenny couldn’t make it over, but they would have been celebrating. And I know there was a crowd at the Kuripuni (Sports Bar) in Masterton who would have shouted the roof off when he won. He’s got a big following back home.’’
Ric McIntosh, the enthusiastic Warrnambool race caller, had the Warrnambool crowd cheering wildly as Zed Em outstayed Gold Medals, turning the tables on last year when Gold Medals defeated Zed Em by a mere short half-head in the Grand Annual.
“What a Kiwi he is. He’s a champion. He gets redemption,” McIntosh cried out as Zed Em went past the winning post three lengths ahead of Gold Medals with Spying On You (by Yamanin Vital) a similar margin back in third placing.
“It was awesome,” Mike Southey said. “I was a bit worried halfway down the straight when he and Gold Medals were fighting it out. I feared it was going to be the same as last year.
“He’s some horse, such an honest horse and he just loves jumping. I’m still soaking it up.”
Zed Em, an eight-year-old son of Zed and the Paris Opera mare Don’t Kick My Float, has now won 16 of his 43 starts and taken his stake earnings to A$983,607, which equates to more than NZ$1 million.