Oaks plans for emerging filly Montefilia will hinge on the covid-19 situation in Victoria but her next two spring starts are set in stone.
Montefilia returns from a six-week break in the Group Two Tea Rose Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday against Silver Shadow and Furious Stakes winner Dame Giselle and favourite Hungry Heart.
The race will be a stepping stone to the Flight Stakes (1600m) in two weeks before Payne decides whether Montefilia stays in Sydney for the Group One Spring Champion Stakes or heads south for the classic.
“It all depends on Victoria and what’s happening there,” Payne said.
“At the moment, I don’t think so. I’d rather see it settle down. We will see what happens in the next month.”
Montefilia has not raced since defeating older horses over 1500m at Rosehill in August.
It was a victory that convinced Payne to chase bigger goals and while the distance of the Tea Rose is short of Montefilia’s best trip, he expects her to be hitting the line.
“She did beat the older horses which is very difficult and she wasn’t even three yet,” Payne said.
“She’s meeting them at their distance (on Saturday) so it’s going to be tough for her but she will be coming home strong.
“I just want to see her run a good race because as we step her up (in distance) she’s going to get better.”
Payne has trained a number of talented fillies, including 2005 Rosehill Guineas runner-up Nevis and Gallant Tess, who was placed in the 2006 Furious and Tea Rose Stakes.
However, the filly he compares Montefilia most closely to is one he prepared during his decorated riding and training career in South Africa.
“She reminds me of a good filly I had in South Africa called Petrava,” Payne said.
“She won six Group One races for me.
“Petrava was the same sort of angular filly, nothing to look at but gee, she could gallop.”
Hungry Heart was a solid even-money pick with TAB fixed odds on Thursday, ahead of Dame Giselle at $2.90 with Montefilia on the third line of betting as a $10 chance.