Owner On A High With Spring Champion Victory

Ace High heads onto the track prior to the start of the Spring Champion Stakes.

Ace High prior to the running of the Spring Champion Stakes (Lisa Grimm)


Expat South African trainer, David Payne, notched up his 107th Group One victory in Saturday’s Moet & Chandon Spring Champion Stakes over 2000m at Royal Randwick and is fairly confident he can make it #108 come 4 November.

Classy 3YO, Ace High, is on target for a tilt at the $1.5 million Victoria Derby at Flemington after his bold display at Randwick where he led throughout, successfully holding off a late challenge from Tangled.

With six starts as a 2YO including a city second to Champagne Cuddles on debut and a maiden win at Kembla, Ace High has really hit his straps at three – particularly his two most recent outings from which he has become the 10th horse to win the Group Three Gloaming Stakes / Group One Spring Champion double.

With $498,000 in the bank, Ace High will add a further $900,000 if successful in Victoria’s blue riband and emulate Monaco Consul (1989) with a Spring Champion/Derby deuce.

“He (Ace High) is definitely a Derby horse,” Payne enthused. “I’ve had Criterion, Praecido and Honorius and they all ran well (in the Derby), but Ace High is the best of them.

“Criterion was more brilliant but Ace High is the stronger stayer.”

Payne also said the Spring Champion win had added emphasis given the colt is owned by long-time client, John Cordina.

“John has been with the stable since 2003, but this is our first Group One win together … he loves his racing,” Payne adds.

Not surprisingly, Cordina reckons the win was pretty special too!

“I was part-owner of Fairway who won the spring triple crown, including the 1999 Spring Champion Stakes before going on to win the Australian Derby and Canterbury Guineas in the autumn. He also won a Gloaming for that matter,” Cordina points out.

“However, there have been no Group Ones since then. Well, until Saturday that is. I’ve gone close quite a few times … Praecido was second in the Victoria Derby after running third in the Spring Champion, Centennial Park won a (Group Two) Expressway and was second in the (Group One) Chipping Norton, while Gallant Tess was a multiple Group winner and Group One placed on five occasions.”

Cordina adds that Ace High will now, most likely, head straight to the Victoria Derby: “He’s had five runs this time in and David has him rock hard fit. It was a tough run in the Spring Champion and David tells me the colt left a little bit of feed in his bin on Saturday night, but we’ve still got plenty of time to decide. We’ll review it over the next week, but how many times do you need to go to the well? David’s a great trainer and if he’s happy to go straight to the Derby, it’s OK by me.”

A successful businessman with a background in the poultry industry, Cordina races “around six at the moment” and also owns a dozen mares.

“Half the mares are at Kitchwin Hills in the Hunter Valley, while the other half are at Lauriston Park in Victoria which stands my Fastnet Rock stallion, Rock Hero.”

Winner of the Listed Dulcify Stakes at Randwick and with his oldest progeny having just become yearlings, Rock Hero is out of Cordina’s ‘unlucky’ mare, Gallant Tess.

The win of Ace High also underscores the tremendous loss to the Australian breeding industry of High Chaparral, who notched up a Group double in the space of 20 minutes on Saturday after Bring Me The Roses had earlier won the Group Two TAB Edward Manifold Stakes over 1600m at Flemington.

Bring Me Roses is High Chaparral’s 104th individual stakes winner, while Ace High became the Sadler’s Wells stallion’s 19th Group One winner (and third Spring Champion winner).

High Chaparral stood at Coolmore Stud throughout his career with both Ace High and Bring Me Roses hailing from his penultimate crop.

And High Chaparral’s double certainly didn’t escape the attention of his former landlord.

“We roared Ace High home from the grandstand at Randwick,” Coolmore Australia’s Sales & Nominations Manager, Colm Santry, reveals.

“David has always believed Ace High to be top-class and the horse has vindicated his opinion this spring. It was a fantastic result for John Cordina too, who has been a great patron of Sydney racing for many, many years and is going to have a lot more fun with this horse, who seems to be thriving on racing.

“Credit also to Andrew and Georgie Ferguson who bred the horse for Bruce Reid. It’s never easy to breed a Group One winner, but they seem to have been making a habit of it lately!

“It’s Sod’s Law that as soon as a stallion dies, his progeny will hit a purple patch and so it has transpired with High Chaparral. He has had an incredible 32 stakes winners around the world since the beginning of 2016, including four new Group One winners from his southern hemisphere crops. Bring Me Roses, who was foaled, raised and broken-in at Coolmore for Denis and Claire O’Brien, is now favourite for the VRC Oaks having easily won the Manifold Stakes at Flemington.

“He was a great stallion and as So You Think has shown, he’s more than capable of getting a sire son, while his daughters are establishing a good record as producers in their own right.”

Ace High is out of the Redoute’s Choice mare, Come Sunday and was bred by Bruce Reid, who sold the colt – via the Bell River Thoroughbreds draft – for $130,000 at the 2016 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale.

Ace High is the fourth foal of Come Sunday, who also has a 2YO full sister to the Spring Champion winner, but the mare sadly died after producing a Hallowed Crown colt last spring.

HOOFNOTE: Aside from his Group double, High Chaparral is also the sire of Australian-bred 3YO filly, Lady Val, who beat the older horses over 1400m at Greyville to notch up her first win, after finishing third on debut last month.

A $50,000 purchase by Kilimanjaro Horse Sales from the Coolmore draft at the 2015 Magic Millions National Weanling Sale, Lady Val is out of the Giant’s Causeway mare, Took.

The Power of Passion