Ace High (AUS) went to the post a solid favorite in the AU$1.5 million AAMI Victoria Derby at Flemington Nov. 4 and, despite some early concerns, justified his backers' faith, winning by two lengths with an impressive show of stamina.
Sully (NZ) finished second in the 2,500-meter (about 12 1/2-furlong) test and Astoria was just behind him in third.
Ace High, with Tye Angland riding for trainer David Payne, finished the marathon in 2:37.55 over turf rated good. The High Chaparral (IRE) colt, owned by Summertime Thoroughbreds, scored his third straight group stakes win and second straight group 1 after taking the Moet & Chandon Spring Champion Stakes Oct. 7.
Angland was forced to take Ace High wide and Payne said he was "a little bit worried" as the race unfolded. As the field hit the final furlongs, Ace High found his rhythm in time for the win.
Payne said winning the Victoria Derby was the fulfillment of a dream, but sparked another possibility: the 2018 Emirates Melbourne Cup (G1).
"Why not?" he asked. "We can't die wondering."
The race was the star among four top-level events on the card.
Longshot Merchant Navy (AUS) took the 1,200-meter Coolmore Stud Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds by a head over co-favorite Invincible Star (AUS). Merchant Navy, a Fastnet Rock (AUS) colt, had won four straight races for trainer Aaron Purcell before finishing 10th in the De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose (G1) at Rosehill Gardens Sept. 23.
With Mark Zahra up, Merchant Navy sailed home in 1:09.10 over the good turf.
Shoals (AUS) edged Eckstein (AUS) in the 1,600-meter Myer Classic (G1) for fillies and mares. Dixie Blossoms (AUS) was a close third. With Dean Yendall in the irons, Shoals finished in 1:35.26. The Fastnet Rock filly, trained by Anthony Freedman, improved her record to five wins and two seconds from seven starts.
In the day's final group 1 event, Shillelagh (NZ) thumped 13 rivals in the Kennedy Mile. The 6-year-old New Zealand-bred mare, by Savabeel, was clocked in 1:35.01. Winning trainer Chris Waller saddled three of the top four finishers.
The favorite in the Kennedy Mile, Tosen Stardom, finished eighth.