By Ray Hickson
Trainer David Payne has the bigger picture in mind when star stayer Ace High kicks off his spring against Winx at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Last year’s Victoria Derby winner, who went within millimetres of adding the ATC Derby to his record when he last raced, will campaign primarily in Sydney in the lead up to the major spring Cups.
That means taking on the world’s best racehorse on a day that will be all about her in the Group 1 $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m).
“It’s not his game this week but he’s got to get fit and we’ve got bigger fish to fry,’’ Payne said.
“I just want him to run well, finish a couple of lengths off them. If he can finish a few lengths off Winx I’d be very happy.’’
In the autumn Ace High resumed in the Expressway Stakes at 1200m and finished 2.3 lengths from Trapeze Artist so something like that would tickle Payne’s fancy.
Ace High has seen a fair bit of Winx already this preparation as he’s contested the same two trials as the champ.
Ace High runs second, with Winx third, in a 1000m trial at Rosehill on August 7
And Payne is quietly rapt with the four-year-olds two hitouts.
While most were watching Winx storm home behind them in the 1000m trial at Rosehill on August 7, Payne was smiling like the Cheshire cat as Ace High finished just ahead of Winx in second place.
“It was a good trial for a two mile horse. I’m happy with the way he’s going,’’ Payne said.
“I think he’s definitely stronger now. He’s put on about 25kg and I don’t think he’s going lose much weight along the way.’’
Winx is the clear favourite at $1.10 in TAB's All-in market for the Winx Stakes with Ace High at $26.
Payne has a six run spring preparation in mind for Ace High culminating in the Melbourne Cup and he’ll stay in Sydney through to the Group 3 $500,000 Craven Plate (2000m) at Randwick on Everest Day.
Ace High will tackle either the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) on September 1 or Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) a week later before the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) on September 29 then into the Craven on October 13.
“Most of his runs will be in Sydney because he’s a handful,’’ he said.
A horse that isn’t a handful is Payne’s promising three-year-old Toulouse and he’s about to embark on a campaign that will mirror Ace High’s 2017 spring.
The gelding posted back-to-back wins in June and he’s due to return without a trial in the Group 3 Ming Dynasty Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill on August 25.
He’ll then follow the Ace High path through the Stan Fox (1500m), Gloaming Stakes (1800m) and Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m).
“I gave him two weeks in the paddock and bought him back, he had a gallop on Friday and is spot on,’’ Payne said.
“He’s a different type of horse to Ace High, he’s more relaxed and can handle things a bit better.
“I can’t wait to get him over 2000m, he’s out of a Carnegie mare, you could see in his two wins that he wants further.’’