Champion trainer Chris Lang has announced he will retire from harness racing once his property is sold at auction on October 17.
The leading trainer, a pioneer in in the Australian trotting industry, has made the decision to concentrate on his health as he battles Raynaud's Disease, which is a rare disorder of the blood vessels affecting his hands.
Lang, 54, told Harness Racing Victoria media this morning he was shattered to have to step away from the sport, but said he was making the tough call for the betterment of his long-term health.
“Basically it’s a decision that was forced upon me,” Lang said.
“I’ve had a few minor health issues over the last few years, with pneumonia and a lung infection, autoimmune disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and basically I have little ongoing issues that are minor now but because of the lifestyle I lead can lead to far more major issues later on.
“I have Raynaud’s Disease, which affects the circulation in my hand, especially during the winters.
“At the present time it’s very minor but it has the potential to develop into a far more life-changing condition if I don’t go and try to get it fixed now.”
While shattered to have to make the call, Lang said he was determined to pull the pin while he still had some say in the matter and said he won’t rule out returning to training in future.
“I’m going to make the decision while it’s still my decision to a degree rather than wait until I’ve got no other option,” he said.
“This is possibly just a hiatus for me rather than a retirement.
“If I’m able to go away now and get this sorted out then who knows what will happen in the future?”
Lang has informed his owners of his decision and stressed it was “business as usual” until his property in Nagambie is sold at auction.
Lang, who has developed his property from bare land to a state-of-the-art harness racing training mecca, said he was disappointed to be selling the venue.
“When we shifted there about 21 odd years ago it was a bare paddock and to build it into something that Sharon and I are so immensely proud of, I always envisaged being carried out of there in a wooden box to be honest.
“We’ve always said though that we want to do the right thing and we feel this is the right thing as hard as it is.”
Lang has been an indomitable force in Australian trotting circles for many years.
He won the 2009 and 2010 Inter Dominion finals with the glorious squaregaiter Sundons Gift and consequently earned an invitation to the Elitlopp in Sweden.
“That was an amazing achievement, really,” Lang said.
“Going over there (to Sweden) was in my opinion the greatest experience because it was life-changing.
“We brought a whole lot of knowledge back with us from that trip.”
Lang, whose other stable champions have included Kyvalley Road, Skyvalley, Let Me Thru, National Interest, Jauriol and Lester Scot, said he remembers attending the Shepparton trials with his trotters and being the only trainer there with squaregaiters.
“Now 40 to 50 per cent of horses at those trials are trotters,” he said.
“It’s actually amazed me how far trotting has come since then in Australia.
I’d like to say I sat back and could see it happening, but that wouldn’t be true.
It really has amazed me.”
Lang will continue training and driving horses until his property has been sold and said he would likely remain in the sport as an owner afterwards, but he was yet to make a decision on that.
He said it would be up to his individual owners to decide how they wanted to handle the transition.
Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria