Lord of the Song overcomes drama at Oakbank

Horse racing

TO describe the last few days as a rollercoaster for the Griffith-based owners of Great Eastern Steeplechase winner Lord of the Song would be putting it very mildly indeed.

In the end it was an easy win for the Patrick Payne-trained eight-year-old, who backed up last year's Von Doussa Steeplechase victory with a stunning performance in the $160,000 Oakbank Easter Carnival feature race, thrashing his rivals to win by 22 lengths.

But the lead-up to it was anything but smooth, with the progressive jumper twice at risk of a scratching after a nasty fall two days before and an eleventh-hour rush to find a new jockey after Australia's leading jumps rider Steve Pateman was controversially banned from the race.

"A few of the boys were going to go down but we were umming and ahhing because we didn't know if it was going to start," part-owner Vince Restagno told The Area News.

"There was a lot of uncertainty and nobody ended up going down.

"Five of us were sitting at the Griff Hotel on Monday watching it, thinking what dropkicks we are."

The drama first started on Easter Saturday, when Lord of the Song finished fifth but tumbled over the line in the Von Doussa (3250m) at Oakbank, dislodging jockey Richard Culley.

For a few moments, the ownership group - which includes nine Griffith locals - thought it was game over for the full-brother of Sydney Cup winner and one-time Melbourne Cup favourite No Wine No Song.

"We didn't know, we just heard the race call," Restagno said. "Then the trainer rang up and said everything's good, but we actually thought he broke down."

After calming down from that false alarm, everything was ready for an assault on the 4950m Great Eastern Steeplechase.

Payne had set Lord of the Song ($4.20) for the race well in advance but his best-laid plans were thrown into disarray when Pateman was stood down by Thoroughbred Racing SA stewards late on Easter Sunday - despite weighing in comfortably under the 67kg handicap.

Pateman was told by Racing Victoria in April that he cannot accept any rides under 67.5kg due to a string of weight-related indiscretions.

That left Lord of the Song's connections without a jockey, and Payne considered scratching the "quirky" horse if he could not find an appropriate rider.

Canberra-based part-owner Craig Taliano, who is a public servant, was thrust into the action as he started penning appeals letters for the unfortunate Pateman to get him back in the saddle.

Fortunately, luck was on their side - on the morning of the race, favourite Jervois was scratched, freeing up the experienced Brad McLean.

McLean rode him to perfection over the 24 jumps, catching up with early leader Rangatira ($7), who finished second, while $2.80 favourite Prussian Officer came fourth.

"The trainer was very, very confident going in," Restagno said.

"If he would have had Steve Pateman he would have declared it. 

"He's a really, really small horse and just handles the turns there at Oakbank very well, because it's a tight track.

"We knew if Pateman was going crazy to ride it, it must have been a good thing, and it was."

The result continued the fairytale rise of Lord of the Song, which was purchased on a lark for less than $5000 and has been written off repeatedly throughout his patchy career before a successful conversion to jumps racing.

"You just shake your head," Restagno laughed.

"This horse has now won just under $400,000 and I don't think he's finished. 

"But the horse doesn't know how much he's worth, he just needed distance.

"When Patrick told us he wanted to give it a go over jumps, that's when the dynamics changed."

Lord of the Song will now push onto Warrnambool with Payne now eyeing the Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) on May 1.

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