It has taken a decade but owner John Cordina and trainer David Payne finally have their group 1 together after Ace High outstayed Tangled to take the Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.
The High Chaparral colt is a stayer and, being a typical colt, he wanted a challenge to bring out his best effort. And that's what he got when Tangled got up on his inside in the final 200 metres.
Tangled loomed, but was never going to get past Ace High, which held a short head margin on post. Sully was worked home hard for third 1 lengths away.
"He just wants to stay, but relaxes when he doesn't have any pressure," jockey Tye Angland said. "Once he felt that other horse, he grabbed the bit and went again and it feels like there would be more there. I don't think anything was going to get past him."
Blake Shinn on Tangled never thought he was going to get the winner after he had controlled the race from the front.
"Pace was dictated by the leader and didn't suit my horse," Shinn said. "But he ran a great race, full credit to the winner but, with a little bit more luck, he probably gets him." Cordina found the straight was the longest he had seen in a while. He had won the Spring Champion with Fairway in 1999 but hadn't had a group 1 since.
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"I wanted to grab the winning post and move it in the last 200metres," Cordina said. "It seemed like a long, long way. It is just great to see him do what we bought him to do and that is stay.
"That is a big thrill because David and I have been close to getting a big one so many times and to get is incredible."
Payne cheekily butted in: "He told me if I didn't win a group 1 for him soon, he would sack me. So I made sure of this one."
Ace High made up for a near miss in the Spring Champion for the pair with Praecido, which went on to run second in the VRC Derby.
"This horse is much better than Praecido and he is only going to get better in the Derby," Payne said. "I have told John that from the start.
"We always liked him. He was a big strong horse. I said when he was a baby this was my Derby horse and that's where we are going.
"I had Criterion, Praecido and Honorius and they all ran well.
"He's the best of them. Well, I don't know better than Criterion but he's a better stayer. Criterion was more brilliant. His brilliance got him the trip. He was more of a miler.
"This bloke will run it right out."
Payne said Ace High would head straight to the VRC Derby in a month without another run and believed he would be better at the 2500 metres where he could be ridden with cover. "We always thought he was going to be up there. It's just circumstances that have worked out this way that he had to lead.
"He is going to be a better horse when he can follow something."
Angland really had to lift Ace High in the drive to the line and exceed the whips strikes rule by four, for which he was fined $4000.
"He was on empty late but he dug in," Angland said. "When horses come around him, you just feel him pick up and grab the bit again. He is probably better off with another horse taking him on to keep him honest."
Straight after the group 1, his thoughts where with brother Cody, who was getting married in Queensland. "It wasn't an easy decision, he's my brother," Angland said. "But for where I am in my career, this is where I need to be to go to the next level.
"As much as it was hard not to go to Cody's wedding, I needed to be selfish and stay on this horse."
"I rang him this morning and wished him well. This will make the party a whole better, they all would have backed him."