David Payne only makes the odd trip to Kembla Grange so Keagan Latham knew there must have been a good reason for it when he arrived on track on a warm winter afternoon last year.
Latham was due to partner a colt by High Chaparral for Payne in what he thought to be a fairly standard two-year-old event at the time. It proved to be anything but.
Latham would partner future VRC Derby winner Ace High to his maiden victory on that July day. It set the colt on a path that would see him wind up in the Melbourne Cup (3200m) in 2018.
“David knew was a little bit quirky, but he knew he had plenty of ability and thankfully he won that day because he has gone on to bigger and better things,” Latham said.
“When I did break his maiden, David came down to Kembla that day, which he doesn’t usually do. He obviously really fancied the horse.
“He is a horse that doesn’t show a lot at home and only ever does just enough to win but that day, although he won, he beat a filly of Chris Waller’s which turned out to be Unforgotten. She went on to win the Oaks.
“At first glance, I would never thought it was going to be that strong of a race but the horses have obviously come along way since then.”
Ace High is considered an $61 TAB outsider to win ‘the race that stops the nation’, where he will be ridden by Tye Angland.
Coincidentally he’s not the only Cup horse Latham has ridden.
He has also partnered the Iain Jardine trained Nakeeta back in 2015, which is $101 with the TAB in the feature event. But Latham rates Corey Brown’s chances of winning back-to-back Melbourne Cups above all else in 2018. Brown will ride the Ian Williams trained Magic Circle ($8) at Flemington on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Latham will spend the day at Kembla Grange where he has three rides for Gwenda Markwell and a fourth for Gerald Ryan to finish the card.
The jockey believes Markwell’s Salon Miss is his best chance to taste success on the afternoon when the mare contests the Go Hire Maiden Handicap (1600m).
“She’s is a bit of a difficult mare but if she does put her best foot forward she should go well,” Latham said.
“She has had a couple of solid runs but it is all about her temperament. I know it is going to be a pretty hot day tomorrow so hopefully she can keep her cool.
“If she can do that, she will have a big shout.”