About David

Starting his career as a jockey in his native South Africa, David was awarded the Champion Apprentice title on two occasions and backed that up with Champion Jockey also on two occasions.

Clearly highlighting what a great start David had to his career within the thoroughbred industry, unfortunately increasing weight forced Payne into the role of trainer, a transition he has never regretted, and now a fruitful career as a highly successful and respected trainer in both South Africa and now Australia has flourished.

While David never rode a horse as a child, he used to walk past Greyville Racecourse on his way to school at St Agnes, and this is where his fascination with racing began. At the age of 15, he was apprenticed to Herman Brown Snr and went through the Jockey Academy at Mariannhill.

Having ridden 399 winners as a jockey, David’s first winner was in fact a dead heat when riding Play-Play in 1963. The best horses he ever rode were Naval Escort for Fred Rickaby, a winner of the Group One Durban July and Double Eagle for Les Hammond.

Commencing his training career in 1972 at the age of only 24, a young, but very experienced Payne quickly established himself as a trainer of promise, with his first ever runner Early Bird, saluting on debut.

A career highlight for Payne was his association with In Full Flight, a colt he trained to victory in six Group One races including the Champion Stakes over 2000m at Greyville and the Queen’s Plate over 1600m at Kenilworth.

In Full Flight took all before him, having 19 starts between two and four years of age for 16 wins. Of those wins, an incredible six were at Group One level, while a further three were Group Two level. A son of the aptly named New South Wales (the state which would eventually become Payne’s home in Australia), In Full Flight would help put David on the map and help establish his successful training career.

Other career highlights include;
  • Natal Champion Trainer 23 times
  • Champion South African Trainer twice
  • South African Trainer of the Year
  • Trainer Outstanding Achievement 1980
  • Champion National Apprenticed Jockey 1968, 1969
  • McDonald Trophy - SA Jockey's Academy 1967

Training in South Africa for over 30 years, David achieved a feat rarely matched by any other – training the winners of every Group One race held in South Africa. Having also trained the winners of 100 individual Group One races in South Africa, David is the only person to ride and train a winner of South Africa’s prestigious Group One Durban July Handicap.

Moving to Australia in 2002 with wife Merle and his children Gary and Tracy, the opportunity to raise his children away from the unstable political situation that South Africa was experiencing at the time was seen as very much a benefit to his family.

Based initially at Royal Randwick, David’s Australian training career started almost in the same way as in South Africa, this time his first runner, Sierra Dane finished second, beaten a nose!

To date in Australia David has been very fortunate to build many successful relationships and without the numerous clients that support his stable, the continued success would not be possible.

It was a special moment for David when his first Australian Group One winner was for John Camilleri, when three-year-old Zabeel filly Unearthly produced an outstanding effort to win the Group One Flight Stakes over 1600m at Randwick by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

Another highlight was getting Redoute’s Choice colt Master Of Design to win the Group One T.J. Smith Stakes at Randwick for his large group of owners.

A galloper with immense talented, but injured plagued, Master Of Design was given to David to train as a tried horse having already spent time with two previous trainers. Having only eight starts for David before retiring, Master Of Design finished in the top four on six occasions, earning his connections over $800,000 in prize money as well as a lucrative stud career deal to stand at leading Victorian farm Swettenham Stud.

Now based at Rosehill Gardens, like most David has the dream to train the winner of the Group One Golden Slipper and the Group One Melbourne Cup, and having already trained a host of stakes winners such as Criterion, Rock Hero, Uber, Gallant Tess, Centennial Park, Nevis, Masquerader, Hurried Choice, Flying Pegasus, Winning Glory and Stripper to name a few, the dream has solid foundations to becoming a reality.