By Ray Hickson
Punters are underestimating the chances of lightly raced three-year-old Ace High.
That’s the view of trainer David Payne ahead of Rosehill on Saturday where he expects the colt to emerge as a serious contender for the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) later this month.
Ace High, rated a $9.50 chance with TAB, caught the eye running fifth behind Gold Standard on September 9 and steps right into his comfort zone in the Group 3 $200,000 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) this weekend.
“He’s always been looking for the trip,’’ Payne said.
“He’s spot on now, those last two lead up runs have brought him on and we’ve done quite a bit of work in between.’’
The Punter’s Intel data out of Ace High’s fifth in the Stan Fox shows he produced the best last 200m of the race, running 11.29 and the second fastest last 600m of 33.88.
Ace High showed early promise with a debut second behind Champagne Cuddles in the Pierro Plate (1100m) but he didn’t break through until his first run this preparation.
Payne elected to take the High Chaparral colt to Kembla Grange for a 1400m maiden and he duly saluted.
Since then he’s finished fifth to Dracarys in course record time at Randwick and fifth in the Stan Fox at 1500m where he closed strongly late.
“We expected him to win first-up, he’d been running against much better company so we took him to the provincials to get a win and get into better races,’’ Payne said.
“He’ll be ridden more forward once he gets over distance. He just can’t go with them over the shorter trips so he will be closer for sure.’’
Ace High is joined in the Gloaming by stablemate Colesburg and while Payne said Ace High is a “couple of lengths better’’ he’s also expecting the distance to suit.
Colesburg produced a super debut when he won at Warwick Farm back in January and also like Ace High is headed to the Spring Champion.
“We thought maybe we over rated him early but he would like a bit of cut out of the ground and he’ll be much more comfortable over the 1800m,’’ Payne said.
”Unfortunately he never seems to draw well.’’
Godolphin will provide some stiff opposition for the Payne duo with a pair of their own in Spring Stakes winner Astoria ($2.50 fav) and Stan Fox runner-up Sanctioned ($3.40).
Trainer James Cummings said both colts have progressed well since their latest assignments and is expecting both to stake their own claims for the Spring Champion on September 30.
“(Astoria) has come through the run really well and he needs racing to keep bringing him on,’’ Cummings said.
“When I looked him over on Tuesday morning, I was delighted with the way he appeared and I think he’s ready to produce again this weekend.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself as far as spring targets go (with Sanctioned) but he’s nominated for the majors.
“He started this preparation as a mid-week winner and he’s now a Group 3 placegetter first up and a Group 2 placegetter last start, so he’s on an upward spiral.”