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David Payne isn’t one to get excited about the potential of a young horse but superbly bred colt Rock Hero has him bubbling with optimism.

The three-year-old broke his maiden in emphatic fashion at Canterbury on Wednesday, dictating from the front to take out the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1550m) by 6-1/4 lengths over Liberty’s Choice.

At his previous start, Rock Hero had pushed Group One placegetter Fuerza to within a long neck at Newcastle and he was confidently backed at Canterbury to start the $2.10 favourite.

A son of top sire Fastnet Rock, Rock Hero is out of Payne’s multiple Group One placegetter Gallant Tess and his trainer believes he can reach greater heights than his dam.

“He might be better than his mum. He’s got the size,” Payne said.

“I wouldn’t go to Melbourne with him, it’s too early. I’ve got to look after him. He could be special.”

While the Victoria Derby is not on the agenda, Rock Hero will still be given his chance in the highest grade this campaign.

Payne confirmed the colt would progress to the Listed Dulcify Handicap (1600m) at Randwick on Epsom Handicap day ahead of the Group One Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at the same track a week later.

“I will only run him two more times,” Payne said.

“He’s a big baby. He is still learning the game.

“It has taken a while for the penny to drop. He still wants to be a man but I think maybe racing will take it out of him.”

The Special Two was a late scratching from the race after suffering a suspected insect bite on the way to course.

Chris Waller produced the quinella in arguably the best race on Wednesday’s program when Earnest Desire nailed Australian Oaks winner Royal Descent’s sister Chateau Lafaite by a head with favourite Woodbine another half-length away third.

All six starters in the Casino [email protected] Handicap (1250m) were last-start winners and Waller said the race had comparable quality to a stakes event.

“You get the feeling you’ve just won a Listed race at Canterbury,” Waller said.

“Probably just race fitness told in the end.”

 
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