All Payne, all gain at Inverell

Cobi Vitler and Todd Payne dominated the meeting held at Inverell on Monday. Image: Bradley Photos.

Todd Payne enjoyed a red-letter day on his home track on Monday, combining with two-kilogram claiming apprentice Cobi Vitler for a winning treble at Inverell. 

The pair kicked off the seven-race program with a running double as Look Closer ($2.70) won by a length in the 1050m Maiden Plate before Takemine ($6) stormed home to win by three-quarters-of-a-length in the 1200m Maiden Plate. 

Two races later, Payne and Vitler had their treble as popular local galloper Kalahari Heart ($3) found a nice race when cruising to a comfortable win in the 1400m Benchmark 50 Handicap. 

Coincidentally, it was Vitler who stopped Payne from bringing up a quartet of winners when he won his fourth race on the card. He rode the Paddy Cunningham-trained Albanjo ($2.60) to a one-and-a-half-length win from the Payne-trained Assiduity (Siena Grima, $6), which held on for second. 

“It was a fantastic day,” Payne told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“Being on your home deck always helps no matter who you are and where you are. 

“Plus, we found the right races, and everything mapped out right for all of them.”

The Inverell meeting was a pop-up program following a slew of washouts in northern NSW, and Payne said everything fell into place from the moment he saw the scheduled meeting on the Racing NSW calendar.

“I looked at it and went through each horse, and there were races for all four, so it worked out well,” Payne said. 

“We were going to take them all to Gunnedah on Monday, but this meeting came up, and it made more sense to race on our home track.”

Look Closer is a speedy mare that had been knocking on the door of a win following close-up finishes at Moree and Armidale earlier this month.

While Payne said the six-year-old is limited, the Inverell trainer is hopeful she will continue to be competitive over five furlongs. 

“I do like the mare, and I was thinking that 1000m is her limit, and being over 1050m today, that extra 50m was in the back of my mind, but she proved me wrong there,” Payne said, 

“She’s no superstar, but I think she will go on to win a race or two.”

Takemine definitely has some upside, with the Hellbent mare making a winning debut for the stable.

Previously trained by Brett Cavanough, the four-year-old had been close to winning at Ballina, Coffs Harbour, and Grafton in recent starts, and Payne praised Takamine’s previous trainer for having her in top-notch condition. 

“With Takemine, we haven’t had her for a long time, and I couldn’t get much of a gauge on her,” Payne said. 

“She went around for Cav (Brett Cavanough) last start, and then she turned up here in fantastic order, and I couldn’t have asked for her to be in any better condition, so all we had to do was keep her ticking over.” 

Kalahari Heart was the stable’s most popular win. The six-year-old registered her fifth career victory after finding an easier race.

“She was stealing it by getting in a Benchmark 50 with 60kg on her back,” Payne said. 

“She’s only ever had one other go at home, and that was in the Inverell Cup. She was beaten two lengths, and coming back to a (Benchmark) 50, she was always going to be in it.”

While pleased to train three winners, Payne quickly praised Vitler, who is riding in outstanding form. 

“I’ve always rated him, both as a jockey and person,” Payne said. 

“I talk to him nearly every day, and he’s just a great kid that can ride.”

Unless called upon again, Inverell Jockey Club will unlikely host another meeting until later in the year.

Payne said it would be good to see the North West racecourse, which races five times a season, used more often than it is.

“I know in the wintertime, the cold and frost kills it all, but from the end of October to next month, we can race,” Payne said. 

“We have five meetings a year, and we’re way under-utilised, and all the comments today were about how good the track was and how fairly it played with the good grass coverage.” 

With Inverell in the books, North West racing continues into Tuesday, with Quirindi hosting a seven-race program, while in the Northern Rivers, Grafton will host their bumper ten-race program.