David Payne needs two things to fall into place to strengthen favourite Ace High’s Australian Derby prospects, and both are outside his control.
Fortunately the weather forecast is favourable for Saturday’s $2 million Australia Derby at Randwick.
No significant rainfall is predicted so the track should stay in the good range for the dual Group One-winning colt who has recorded all his four wins on firm ground.
The barrier draw is the other imponderable for the trainer who is hoping for a better gate than the alley Ace High and Tye Angland were allocated for the Group One Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on March 24.
A number in the first five or six would be ideal.
Although the Victoria Derby winner has been unplaced in four runs this preparation, Payne is unfazed, with the 2400 metres of the Derby the focal point of his campaign.
“This is what he’s waiting for and he’s on track,” he said.
Ace High started with two races over sprint distances to build up for the Randwick Guineas (1600m).
He then stepped up in distance for the Group One Rosehill Guineas (2000m), finishing sixth behind D’Argento who is heading for the Doncaster Mile.
Barrier 10 was a hindrance that afternoon while the soft track also did Ace High no favours before he crossed three lengths behind the Chris Waller-trained colt..
“He was wide all the way. He never had cover so I think it was a ‘forgive me’ run,” Payne said.
Payne, who trained Criterion to win the 2014 Australian Derby, said he planned for Angland to use the same strategy that proved successful at Flemington in November.
“I’d like Tye to ride him a bit quieter and let four or five lead him,” Payne said.
“We rode him like that in the Victoria Derby. He’ll be on the speed with a little bit of cover.”
Ace High was the $5 favourite with the TAB on Monday ahead of the Kris Lees-trained Furore ($7).
Payne is also wary of New Zealand Derby winner Vin De Dance, fourth in the Rosehill Guineas.
“You’ve always got to respect the New Zealand three-year-olds. They seem to grow a leg over here,” Payne said.
Payne and owner John Cordina’s hopes of a Classic double are over with All Too Soon out of the Australian Oaks after she was found to be lame after Angland stopped riding her out in Saturday’s Group One Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
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