FORMER SA Champion trainer David Payne recorded his 106th Gr1 win when owner John Cordina’s three-year-old Ace High won Saturday’s Spring Champion Stakes over 2000m at Royal Randwick, Sydney.
In a replica of his Gloaming Stakes win, the colt by High Chaparral made his own tempo under jockey Tye Angland before holding off Tangled with Sully taking the minor placing.
Ace High firmed in betting for the Victoria Derby to be run at Flemington on November 4.
An emotional Angland paid tribute to the toughness of Ace High and he revealed that he missed his brother’s wedding to take the ride in the Group 1 event.
“We went forward again today and we thought there was going to be a bit more pressure,” Angland said. He just had a beautiful run in front and I thought that I would make it a bit of a staying test.
“I was on empty late, but hopefully it was the sectionals that I got right early that were paying dividends. I missed my brother’s wedding today for this fellow.”
The Spring Champion Stakes win was Payne’s first Group 1 victory since Criterion won the 2014 Australian Derby and his first ever for his staunch and long-time patron, Cordina.
“I think Ace High is going to be a better horse when we can follow something, but today we had to make it a stayers race,” Payne said.“He is definitely a Derby horse and that is when you can give him a bit of a breather. I had Criterion there and he is the best stayer.
Payne (69) retired from the saddle in 1971 before starting to forge one of the most successful training careers in South African racing history, winning every Group I in SA. He’s also, to this day, the only person to ride and train a winner of South Africa’s most prestigious race, the Gr I Durban July Handicap.
Payne moved to Australia in 2002 and had won four Group I races before the Spring Challenge, the first in the Flight Stakes with Unearthly in 2003.
“I’m going to be 70 in a few months,” Payne said. “You tend to cut down as you get older and I’ve only got 25 in work now. When Criterion won my last Group I, the (Australian) Derby in 2014 we had 50 odd in work.
“I’m still ambitious, I’m still looking for the next good horse but now I’m only buying about 10 or so horses every year compared with the big trainers that buy 100 to 150. That’s the difference, racing is a numbers game.”
Headline photo: Trainer David Payne (right) with owner John Cordina (Racing NSW).