Patrick Payne has added to his growing band of feature jumps race victories with Sir Lopez taking out the Australian Steeplechase at Sandown.
Already this season Payne has won the Grand Annual, Great Eastern and Von Doussa Steeplechases courtesy of Zed Em who is currently in the spelling paddock.
The win of Sir Lopez in Sunday’s Australian Steeplechase was Payne’s third after he won with Krase (2014) and Angelology (2016).
Ridden by Richard Cully, Sir Lopez was sent off the $2.40 favourite and scored by 1-3/4 lengths from Gold Medals ($3.20) with Solar Coaster ($7) another three-quarters of a length away third.
Sir Lopez’s fifth in a flat race at Cranbourne on Friday night convinced Payne he was ready to take his place on Sunday.
“I wasn’t sure about running him before Friday night,” Payne said.
“But I said to (owner) Sandy (Tait) that I’d prefer to over-train him than under-train him for his first jumps race and have him make a mistake at the second last or the last.
“Anyway the horse is very tough and robust and it was a terrific ride from Richard as he was a little bit of a question mark at the distance.”
Payne said Sir Lopez would now need to take the next step up in class with a rise in his rating.
“He’s a bit more seasoned and tougher this year and ridden like that gives him every chance,” Payne said.
“He gives you a run for your money. He does his best and that’s all you can ask for.”
Cully, who also rode Krase to win the Australian Steeplechase, was full of praise for the way Payne prepared Sir Lopez for Sunday’s race.
“He raced on Friday night to take the edge off him,” Cully said.
“But that’s one thing about riding Patrick’s horses, its nice and easy, they’re fit, they jump well and are trained well.”
Dual licence-holder Cully had his first runner at Flemington on Saturday as a trainer with Celtic Blast 12th in an 1100m benchmark 78 handicap.
“He pulled up good but I think the 1100 metres might have been too far,” he said.
“We might keep him for 1000 or even the 955 metres at Moonee Valley.”