Payne Keeping A Carnival Ace Up His Sleeve

Trainer David Payne is so bullish about how well his dual Group 1 winner Ace High is going he’s entertaining taking on Winx should she be around during The Championships.

Payne is adamant Ace High, a slashing first-up fifth in the Expressway Stakes, is better than ever and that view will be vigorously tested at Rosehill on Saturday.

Ace High is among a cracking line up of three-year-olds in the Group 2 $400,000 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) that includes Kementari, Trapeze Artist, Siege Of Quebec, Pierata, Assimilate and D’Argento.

TAB opened Ace High at $26 for the Hobartville on Monday behind Kementari ($2.30) and Trapeze Artist ($4.60).

Talk of a Winx match-up is still down the track but it might gather momentum if the colt exceeds Payne’s pass mark for his second-up run in a race the trainer admits won't be easy.

“I'm happy with him, we're just building him up to his target. If he finishes a length or two off them I'd be happy,’’ Payne said.

Ace High finishes strongly first-up in the Expressway Stakes at Rosehill on February 3

“His real targets are the Rosehill Guineas and the Australian Derby. By chance if he wins one over a mile (Randwick Guineas) he's worth a fortune.

“We'll see how Winx is going and we will look at the Queen Elizabeth as well.’’

For a fleeting moment Payne considered entering Ace High for last weekend’s Apollo Stakes but said there was no need to change his original plan.

Ace High, in his first run since easily winning the 2500m Victoria Derby, ran the second fastest last 600m first-up in the Expressway (1200m) of 34.42 (Punters Intel).

“He's definitely a better horse and stronger,’’ Payne said.

“Often a Derby flattens them and over the years you see them not come back but he's come back well.’’

Payne last week nominated Ace High for the $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 14, run a week after the $2m Australian Derby (2400m).

While thoughts of toppling the champion mare are often ridiculed, certainly on social media, Payne has an “in it to win it’’ attitude and said if the colt is at the top of his game and comes through the Derby well there’d be no reason to shy away.

And the champion’s presence that day won’t be confirmed until after she runs in the George Ryder Stakes on March 24 so it’s a smart move to keep it on the table.

Meanwhile, Payne’s Australian Oaks-bound filly All Too Soon will be seen at Rosehill Gardens on Wednesday week in an 1800m three-year-old event.

All Too Soon lumped 60.5kg to a first-up win at Kembla Grange over 1400m and, after Rosehill will return to that track for the Group 3 Kembla Grange Classic (1600m) on March 16.

“It was a good effort with a big weight and we thought her class would carry her through,’’ Payne said.

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