David Payne has trained more than 100 Group One winners but few have given him more satisfaction than Ace High’s victory in the Spring Champion Stakes.
Since Payne arrived in Australia from South Africa in 2002, John Cordina has been a loyal stable supporter but until Saturday at Randwick, owner and trainer had not combined for a Group One win.
That changed when Ace High ($3.10 fav), ridden by Tye Angland, showed his toughness by leading all the way over the 2000 metres to beat Tangled ($5.50) by a short head with Sully ($8.50) another 1-1/2 lengths away.
Payne is more than keen to take Ace High to Melbourne for the Victoria Derby in four weeks while Cordina, a part-owner of the Jack Denham-trained 1999 Spring Champion winner Fairway, is wondering whether they should wait until autumn.
“This is my first Group One winner since Fairway. It’s been a long time coming and it feels pretty good,” Cordina said.
“David picked him out at the Magic Millions sale and we paid $130,000 for him.
“We always wanted a stayer and he looks like a good one.”
Payne said he believed Ace High would be better if he had a horse to chase but circumstances on Saturday were against that plan.
“I think he is going to be a better horse when he can follow something but today we had to make it a stayer’s race,” he said.
“We always thought he was going to be up near the lead. There was no pace in the race.
“I think he is definitely a (Victoria) Derby horse. That’s when you can give him a bit of a breather.
“I’ll speak to the owner and see how we go. I’m keen on the Derby. I had Criterion, Praecido and Honorius and they all ran well.”
Payne trained Criterion to win the 2014 Australian Derby but the horse was transferred to David Hayes after that year’s Cox Plate.
For Angland, the win was a two-edged sword.
“He just had a beautiful run and I thought I would make it a staying test,” Angland said.
“I was on empty late, but the easy sectionals early that I got right paid dividends.
“But I gave up my brother Cody’s wedding to be here today, so I’ve missed that.”
And there was no chance Angland could make the reception with his brother Cody, a bronco rider, getting married in Springsure in central Queensland.
Blake Shinn who rode Tangled said the race was not run to suit his horse.
“The pace was dictated by the leader and didn’t suit my horse,” he said.
“But he ran a great race. Full credit to the winner but with a little bit more luck he probably nearly gets him.”
Angland efforts to get the best out of Ace High cost him $4000 with the jockey fined for overuse of the whip.