“You make a list and we had a budget of $100,000 for the right filly. She ticked the right boxes.”
The Kermadec filly would bust the budget, the hammer finally falling at $130,000. But when compared to her rivals in Saturday’s Tea Rose Stakes, she is the cheap filly bought from a sale.
“She was just [an] athlete from the beginning, you could see it in her walk,” Payne said. “And she has continued to grow and is just going to get better.
“We kept going because of those qualities she had and still has.”
Payne has mastered preparing his charges for the early season three-year-old group races. Think Ace High, a Victoria Derby winner, Criterion who won the Australian Derby and his first Australian group 1 winner, Unearthly, who won a Flight Stakes, the race Montefilia targets.
Payne has tailored her career to be ready to take on the best fillies at this point and Montefilia comes with a record of two wins from four starts. The only time she missed a place was an unlucky fourth in the Baillieu Handicap in the autumn.
In another indication of Payne’s faith Hugh Bowman has been booked to ride.
“Hugh has won group 1s for me and when you get a horse like her you want a jockey like him,” Payne said.
Montefilia has respect in the betting at $9.50 with the Furious Stakes quinella of Dame Giselle and Hungry Heart in front of her. Hungry Heart is the $2 favourite to turn the tables on the I Am Invincible filly Dame Giselle, who is at $2.90 looking to continue a sweep of the Princess Series.
The favourites come off a 1200m run, while Payne has opted to wait for 1400m to start Montefilia.
“They might be a bit sharp for her at the 1400m because she needs a mile but she will be finishing it off,” Payne said.
“She is going to better at the mile and beyond.
“We gave her those runs in the winter, just to season her and you can see the benefit of them now.
“The goal was always the Oaks, but with what is happening in Melbourne, we might just go to the Flight Stakes and Spring Champion and wait for the autumn for the Oaks.
“Everything she does suggests that she is up with the better fillies I have had. We are going to find out on Saturday where she fits against these fillies.”
Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald