Rosehill trainer David Payne has already ruled out a Victoria Derby start for Rock Hero even if he performs well in the Group 1 $400,000 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick today.
Rock Hero has shown remarkable improvement over his short five start career but Payne feels the Fastnet Rock colt is still too immature to tackle the Group 1 $1.5m AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on November 2.
“I think he is a special horse and I just want to look after him and give him the opportunity to mature a bit more and it’s his first preparation,” Payne told the Sportsman.
“He’s a big backward bugger who is only just starting to mature now and starting to know what it’s all about.”
“I think he’s just got the X-factor, I really do.”
Rock Hero has won two from five starts and had to overcome a tardy getaway last start to surge late to win the Listed $100,000 TAB Dulcify Quality (1600m) at Randwick last Saturday.
Payne has thrown Rock Hero into the deep end, taking on the top three years in Sydney, after the colt put up a tremendous performance to beat the Gai Waterhouse pair of Liberty’s Choice and Equator.
“When he went up in the air I just went ‘that’s it’ because I didn’t know he had such a good turn of foot,” Payne said.
Rock Hero will again be tackling the Waterhouse three year olds as well as his stablemate Criterion who is also one of the top fancies after returning to form with a narrow second to Eurozone in the Group 2 $250,000 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on September 28.
As well as giving Criterion a great chance today, Payne is keen to go to Flemington for the Victoria Derby if the Sebring colt races up to expectation.
“He’s in the Derby and if he sees the 2000m out and we’re happy with him then he will definitely go,” Payne said.
“He’s really blossomed the last couple of weeks and has peaked at the right time as well. I think he is in up to his eye brows.”
“He was always back and running on as a two year old. Even in the Champagne Stakes last year, he came from second last and was running on strongly and was only beaten a couple of lengths.”
The John O’Shea trained Savvy Nature ($3.50) and Darley’s Complacent ($4.80) head the Spring Champion Stakes market order after running the quinella in the Group 3 $200,000 PJ’s Irish Pub Parramatta Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill on September 28.
Rock Hero is next in the betting at $5 in front of the Anthony Cummings trained Drago at $8 with Criterion marked as a $13 chance.