Fairway (AUS) delivered four group 1 wins for owner John Cordina nearly two decades ago after he started his racing ventures with a bunch of mates. Cordina has been waiting to find another group 1 winner since.
He found it in Ace High (AUS), who took the Moet & Chandon Spring Champion Stakes (G1) at Randwick Oct.7, and there is much more to come.
"It has taken a while to get back here, but it was worth the wait," Cordina said. "We buy these staying horses and finally we have the right horse.
"It is funny that it came in this race, because it was the race that got me started with Fairway."
Cordina has been a trusted client of former South African David Payne for more than a decade and the pair have been close to top-level success, but until Ace High had not tasted it.
"He told me he was going to sack me if we didn't win one soon," Payne joked. "I told him two years ago this was the horse to do it."
A son of High Chaparral (IRE), High Ace made all the running over the Randwick 2,000 meters and when challenged in the final 100 meters, dug in to repel Tangled (AUS), who got up on his inside, to score by short head.
The margin was narrow, but Ace High never looked in danger of being beaten. Sully (NZ) finished third.
"I was on empty late, but the easy sectionals early that I got right paid dividends," said jockey Tye Angland, who missed his brother's wedding to ride Ace High. "He is a typical colt, in that he relaxes and did what he had to do until the other horse was coming at us. Then he grabbed the bit again when he felt the other horse and wasn't going to get beaten."
Angland had to drive Ace High to the line and beached the whip rules by four strikes, for which he was fined AUS$4,000. Stewards considered a protest on behalf of the runner-up but decided against it.
For Payne it was his 107th group 1 winner. More than 100 of those came in his native South Africa, and he is looking toward next month's Victoria Derby (G1) at Flemington for Ace High's next challenge.
"I think he is going to be a better horse when he can follow something, but today we had to make it a stayer's race," Payne said. "He was the strongest stayer and we played to his strength. I said when he was a baby this was my Derby horse.
"I'm keen to get him to the Derby. I had Criterion (NZ), Praecido (NZ), and Honorius (AUS) and they all ran well there. He's the best of them. This horse is going to be better stepping out in trip and I can't wait to see him in Melbourne."
Chris Roots is chief racing writer for the Sydney Morning Herald.