Ace High wins the Group One Victoria Derby

Ace High ridden by Tye Angland wins race 7, the Victoria Derby.
Ace High has beaten Sully and Astoria to win the $1.5 million Victoria Derby at Flemington.

David Payne’s Australian dream has come true with the former champion South African trainer realising his long-held ambition to win the Victoria Derby.

Ace High, a horse Payne identified as a Derby player early in his career, delivered on the big stage at Flemington on Saturday with a superior staying performance over the 2500 metres.

Payne arrived in Australia in 2002 to start a new life in Sydney and shortly after businessman John Cordina joined him as a supporter of the trainer’s stable.

Last month they celebrated their first Group One win together when Ace High won the Spring Champion Stakes in Sydney.

But the Derby is a different level again.

“This is by far the best feeling I’ve had,” Cordina said.

“I was a bit worried in the run when he was three and four-wide but it was a great ride by Tye (Angland) and it’s just an amazing feeling.”

Payne and Angland were also worried when Ace High was posted wide down the back straight but Ace High, the $7 favourite in an open betting race asserted himself in the straight to put two lengths on Sully ($7.50) with Astoria ($8) another half neck third.

The trainer had already indicated Ace High would be ridden differently from the Spring Champion (2000m) when he led from start to finish.

“Not usually does a plan come together but this has been planned for about six months and it all just fell into place,” Payne said.

“I’ve had runners in this race before including Criterion but this horse might be better than him – you never know.

“I was a little bit worried when I saw him three and four deep but I’ve always wanted to ride him back. He looks a better horse ridden quietly.”

William Hill

Criterion went on to win the Australian Derby in Sydney the following autumn and was transferred to David Hayes who prepared him to win the Caulfield Stakes and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Payne said Cordina, who was a partner with his cousin John Camilleri in the 2000 Australian Derby winner trained by Jack Denham, had been his most loyal client.

“When I came from South Africa, to get going was tough and he has been with me a long time,” he said.

For Angland the win was one for the ages with the 28-year-old sacrificing his brother’s wedding on Spring Champion Stakes day.

“They aren’t racing people so it’s hard for them to understand that at this time of year it’s difficult,” Angland said.

“If I hadn’t ridden him that day, I wouldn’t be standing here now.

“It’s my first ever winner in Victoria and it’s an unbelievable feeling.

“I thought when I got flushed wide it was over but he got in his rhyrhm and the last 100 metres were just enjoyable.

“I can’t describe the different emotions that I felt that last little bit.”

Payne trained the winners of all South Africa’s big races and has had success at the highest level in Australia with his tally at more than 100.

But there is at least one more he’d like to win.

“We could be back next year for the Melbourne Cup,” he said.