Payne Focused On The Big Picture With Navajo Peak

David Payne has stopped short of declaring the Verry Elleegant Stakes a race for second behind brilliant first-up winner Fangirl, but he does think the Chris Waller-trained mare has a stranglehold on the Group One showpiece.

Payne will saddle-up Navajo Peak in the Randwick mile, formerly known as the Chipping Norton Stakes, and while rapt with his charge he says the gelding will be hard-pressed to turn the tables on his last start conqueror.

Navajo Peak was trapped wide from an outside draw when finishing a fighting fourth to Fangirl in the Apollo Stakes (1400m), three lengths behind the winner whose performance even Waller described as “Winx like” for its dominance.

While Payne doesn’t think Fangirl is over the line yet, he expects her to be difficult to overcome.

“You never feel that because things go wrong in races, but she is the one to beat for sure,” Payne said.

“It was a very good run by Navajo Peak last start, if he’d drawn a gate I would say he’d have run second.

“But he would never have beaten the winner, she was too good.”

Navajo Peak wasn’t the only horse with a hard luck tale from the Apollo with several horses racing in restricted room in the straight, notably Fangirl’s stablemate and fellow Verry Elleegant Stakes runner Lindermann, who finished sixth.

Jason Collett sticks with Navajo Peak, who has drawn nicely for his second-up assignment in barrier four.

The gelding did score an upset win over the same course and distance in the Chelmsford Stakes last spring when at the same stage of his campaign, but Payne will be satisfied with a competitive showing on Saturday as Navajo Peak heads towards the Doncaster Mile (1600m) in April.

“His main mission is the Doncaster where he has 52-1/2 (kilos), so that’s what we’re aiming for,” Payne said.

“But we’ll take what we can get on Saturday.

“He’s a very honest horse and he always gives his best.”

A final field of 10 was paid up for the Verry Elleegant Stakes on Wednesday, including evergreen geldings Think It Over and Cascadian, along with the up-and-coming Just Fine.

Formerly trained in England by Sir Michael Stoute, Just Fine burst onto the local scene in the spring with three successive wins, culminating in the Group 1 Metropolitan.

– RAS NewsWire

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