Ace High scoops big pot with dazzling Victoria Derby display
Ace High proved to be the winning hand in the Group 1 Victoria Derby at Flemington on Saturday, making his 15 rivals fold in the $1.5 million pot by virtue of a smart turn of foot just under a furlong out.
It was reported by local experts to be the most open Victoria Derby in recent memory, but punters still managed to pick the right one as the Sydney-based son of High Chaparral was sent off favourite and stayed on best of all to beat Sully by two lengths.
Such an outcome did not look likely leaving the back straight as Ace High and Tye Angland were shuffled back through the pack when the front-running Weather With You slowed the tempo.
Class prevailed, however, as Angland angled his mount to the outside and galloped to an emphatic success. So emphatic that he could afford to punch the air a few strides from the line.
Angland admitted he was not where he wanted to be through the race, saying: "I was thinking, 'Man I'm in trouble' for most of that. I told myself not to panic and, credit to the horse, he just took off. He could have gone around again."
Winning trainer David Payne echoed the words of Angland, stressing that it was not an enjoyable watch for much of the way.
He said: "I was worried when I saw him three or four deep. It wasn't the ideal spot to be, but I always wanted the horse to be ridden from further back and I think he responds better to a quiet ride.
"Plans do not usually come together so well but this plan was hatched about six months ago and everything has just fallen into place.
"Let's hope he'll be back for the Melbourne Cup next year. I would love to win that."
The Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes looked done and dusted when the speedy Invincible Star sprinted into a big lead at the halfway mark, but he was shot down late by Merchant Navy under Mark Zahra.
Aaron Purcell took over training of the colt only last month following Ciaron Maher’s six-month suspension but he now has a sprinting star on his hands.
Purcell said: "I took over the stable with a lot of expensive, nice horses and there were expectations and with that comes a lot of pressure.
"Fortunately I've got very good staff behind me, good facilities and good processes at home. To get the bob on the line is a very satisfying result."
Cismontane claims Melbourne Cup berth
There was an anxious hour for Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins after Cismontane claimed the Group 3 Lexus Stakes to win a ballot-exempt entry to the Melbourne Cup and leave Thomas Hobson seeking another withdrawal.
Fortunately for the Irish raider, news of Jon Snow's withdrawal due to lameness soon filtered through and he sneaked in.
Cismontane was always up with the pace under Stephen Baster and dug deep to score, a result which would have shocked his rider not long ago.
Baster said: "If you asked me six months ago I'd have said he'd be flat out to win a mid-weeker. He's just improved out of sight and the team have done an amazing job with him – I couldn't have dreamt to have seen him here today."
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