Former South African trainer David Payne is hoping a long term plan can come to fruition when his colt Honorius steps out in the Group 1 $1.5m AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Payne said that Honorius is at his peak after a light Sydney Autumn preparation with the Derby always the race that had been targeted and is going to get a good run from barrier two.
“He’s never been better. He’s spot on and barring accidents he’s going to be in the firing line on Saturday.” Payne said.
“We gave him a light Sydney prep because we knew that we were targeting him for this race and everything’s been perfect.”
“Over the years you learn. If you give them too hard a Sydney prep you get here and they’re gone so I said to his owners I want to target the Derby so we’ll just give him a couple of runs in Sydney they build to have him peaking this Saturday.”
Payne admits that It’s A Dundeel is naturally the hardest to beat after his colt finished behind the Derby favourite in two outings in Sydney prior to coming to Melbourne.
Honorius made up ground in the straight when second to It’s A Dundeel in the Group 3 $200,000 Co-Wyn Building Group Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Randwick on September 22 before finishing third again to the Kiwi three year old in the Group 1 $400,000 Chandon Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on October 6.
The Holy Roman Emperor colt brought his consistent form to Melbourne with an unlucky second to Hvasstan in the Group 3 $150,000 Starlight Children’s Foundation Norman Robinson Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 20.
“He better both mentally and physically,” Payne said.
“He’s travelled down here to Melbourne in great shape, ran well and has come on.”
Payne has taken a line through his other Derby runner Praecido who ran second to Lion Tamer two years ago and suggests that Honorius is a slightly better three year old.
“He’s a much better horse than Praecido, who ran second a couple of years ago, chalk and cheese, he’s a much tougher horse and he’s got more quality.”
“If you look at his pedigree, he’s the Derby winner,” Payne said.
“He’s got the Aga Khan’s family on the dam side and there’s so much stamina so that isn’t a problem.
“We know that we’ll be running on when a lot will be walking.”
Payne knows that It’s A Dundeel will appreciate the wider open spaces of Flemington and barrier ten shouldn’t be a problem with his usual racing pattern is to get back in the field anyway.
“I don’t think It’s A Dundeel lost much from a Derby point of view,” Payne said.
“I don’t think the Moonee Valley track suited him.
“I’m sure he will be much better on the bigger track at Flemington but I also think it will suit my horse as well.”
It’s A Dundeel remains the Victoria Derby favourite at $2.60 with the Mark Kavanagh trained three year old Super Cool at $5.50. Glen Boss’ mount Hvasstan is on the next line of betting with Honorius at $8.