By Ray Hickson
Trainer David Payne has some unfinished business when it comes to the Australian Derby and he has high hopes that Costello can be the horse to claim a second win in the blue riband classic.
A stride before the post in the 2018 edition Payne’s stable star Ace High had the Derby won but was outbobbed by Levendi.
Of course Ace High will spearhead Payne’s autumn carnival team but he believes Costello is a staying find in the making and is also confident Toulouse is in for a big preparation.
Unfortunately, the carnival will be run without Group 2 winner Tarka who has had colic surgery.
“They are some nice horses, we only keep 22 in training and Tarka would have been a nice addition as well,’’ Payne said.
“Costello is a nice strong horse and untapped. He didn’t beat much at his last run but it was the way he won.
“I’m happy with Ace High, he’s come back very good. Melbourne was a complete forgive, we just put a pencil through that campaign.’’
Payne won the 2014 Australian Derby with Criterion and while Costello has a lot of ground to make up to be spoken of in similar terms the gelding has only four starts under his belt.
He signalled a staying future with a dominant win over 1800m at Hawkesbury in September and it’s over that trip Payne will kick off his Derby preparation.
“He’ll stay all day and we can come through the grades so we don’t have to take on The Autumn Sun,’’ he said.
“When he won he pulled up with a little problem, nothing serious.
“I don’t know how good he is. You saw him win that day at Hawkesbury, he could have won by half the racecourse.’’
Ace High failed in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups and Payne said he’s unlikely to tackle the Sydney Cup this year with the Group 1 $1.5m Tancred Stakes (2400m) the main aim.
The four-year-old is expected to resume, against Winx, in the $600,000 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on March 2 and tackle the Tancred third-up.
“He only starts to get going at 2000m so it’s a waste of time running over shorter than a mile,’’ he said.
Costello's easy win at Hawkesbury in September
Whether this campaign is Ace High’s last is up to owner John Cordina but Payne expects if the entire is racing to his best there’s every chance he will race on at five, especially given the lack of depth in the Australian staying ranks.
“We discussed it and he thought maybe go to stud but if he’s going well what’s the point,’’ he said.
“And I know he won’t put him to stud if he’s going well. He could never have won the Melbourne Cup but he could have finished midfield.
“His problem is he bounces so well out of the gates for a stayer and he finds himself in front.’’
Lightly raced three-year-old Toulouse had his spring cut short with a minor injury and Payne believes he’ll excel in races around a mile to 2000m.
After being gelded he won successive 1400m events at Rosehill in June that stamped him a potential carnival horse and Pyne will look at races like the Randwick Guineas.
“I know there’s The Autumn Sun but you know what racing’s like, things happen, so we’ll go along,’’ he said.
“He’s matured now and is much stronger.’’