Day At The Track

He's back! Chris Lang to return

09:35 AM 13 Jun 2018 NZST
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Chris Lang,Harness racing
Chris Lang

Four short years ago Novak Djokovic was the undisputed king of world tennis, Barack Obama was presiding over the United States with a sense of quiet equanimity and Chris Lang was the ruling regent of southern hemisphere squaregaiting.

Sadly for ‘The Joker’ dominance has made way for deterioration as he no longer occupies a place in the ATP top-20 while Obama’s diplomacy has been usurped by Donald Trump’s tweet-first-think-later approach to leading the world’s pre-eminent superpower.

But what of Lang; whatever did become of Australasia’s one-time trotting kingpin?

Just days ago the answer to that question – that he was part of a maintenance crew working on the Bellarine Peninsula specifically focussing on Curlewis Golf Course – would have been known by few.

But while that may have been true just moments ago, now it seems one of harness racing’s most charismatic figures is re-joining the fray in a very big way.

Before we examine the future however, let’s revisit the past.

Having owned Australia’s squaregaiting scene for what felt like an eternity with horses like Sundons Gift and Let Me Thru among others, Lang declared, on the Breeders Crown weekend of 2014 if you don’t mind, that he was moving on.

After several life-threatening health scares Lang was now being cruelled by a multitude of autoimmune diseases including Scleroderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Reynaud’s Syndrome, all of which were conspiring to make the business of training horses tougher than deemed tolerable.

On advice from Physicians – who branded his range of ailments as Overlapped Connective Tissue Disease – Lang made the heartbreaking but pragmatic decision to give the game away.

Time with family followed as Chris and wife Sharon moved from Aldebaran Park in Nagambie to the outskirts of Geelong.

With the same dedication he had displayed during a brilliant career as both conditioner and reinsman, Lang sought to overcome the illnesses which had waylaid his world.

Three years and 10 months later Lang has learnt to manage more than maul the maladies which saw his exit from the sport.

But now it’s time to get back in the game he’s made his life.

“It might sound a bit mischevious to a few people but the break I had was only ever meant to be a  hiatus; I never really thought I was retiring for good,” Lang said.

“When I walked away I was doing so on advice from doctors and I can honestly say I believed I’d find a way to get on top of the Reynaud’s Syndrome which is a circulatory disease that badly affected my hands.

“At the end of the day I tried my best and it’s no better but also no worse and there comes a time where you have to ask yourself whether you want to twiddle your thumbs doing something you’re not passionate about or have a crack at doing what you really love.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am hugely appreciative of Lindsay Sharp who owns the Flying Brick Cider Company among other things for giving me a gig when I needed one.

“The boys on site had no idea what I did when I first turned up and when I told them they started calling me the washed up jockey but they were a great bunch of people and I’ll miss them all, everyone bar the mechanic.

“Seriously though, the time had come to give racing another chance and nothing has been taken lightly. It’s something I’m excited about for sure.”

Having explored options in New South Wales and Queensland since committing his mind to a comeback more than four months ago, an opportunity to stay in Victoria materialised and from there the decision was made.

There are still some formalities to be taken care of and some red tape to deal with but for all intents and purposes the king is back in his castle and once again searching for his throne.

“Even when I was looking around at other states and what they had to offer nothing could compare with Victoria and the place we’re buying at Riddells Creek is totally perfect in every way.

“It’s just part of my personality that I need to be where the action is and I need to be competing with the best.

“Don’t worry I’m circumspect enough to know I’ll be starting small and that’s the way I want it but with the support of people like Richard Matthews and Jim Connelly among others I’ll get my opportunities.

“Just being part of the game again and developing a small team will be enormous fun but I also don’t want to punch around the periphery for too long either.

“I already have plans to implement some ideas I never had the time or energy to tinker with before I left the game; the fire is in the belly and that is what you need.

“The Inter Dominion’s back and baby so am I.”

 

Jason Bonnington
for Trots Media

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