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Payne set for Royal Ascot debut in opener

Prince of Penzance ridden by Michelle Payne
Michelle Payne makes her Royal Ascot debut on board Kaspersky in the Group One Queen Anne Stakes.

British-based Australian Trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam believes the star quality of Michelle Payne can help spring a surprise in Tuesday’s Royal Ascot opener.

The 2015 Melbourne Cup-winning jockey rides Kaspersky for Chapple-Hyam in the 1600 metre Group One Queen Anne Stakes that kicks off the five-day festival (11:30pm AEST).

Kaspersky, a six-year-old colt who Chapple-Hyam bought from Italy in February, will later this year head to Australia for the Emirates Mile in the Spring Carnival at Flemington.

A Group Two winner in Germany, he is likely to go off at around 50/1 in what will be only his third race for the Victorian.

Kaspersky finished fifth from seven on his British debut in a listed race on the straight mile at Ascot, then a close second in a handicap at Nottingham, despite giving 5.5kg to winner Another Touch – who runs in the Royal Hunt Cup on Wednesday.

“I wanted him to run at Ascot as a stepping stone for getting a feel for the track,” Chapple told AAP.

“I thought it would be beneficial to give him a taste of the straight mile six weeks ago as the whole place is a bit daunting.

“He got a bit tired over the last furlong because of the rising ground.

“But I felt he needed another run and was pleased with how he ran at top-weight at Nottingham to the horse that is now one of the favourites for the Hunt Cup.”

Payne arrived at Newmarket last week and has spent an hour a day riding out Kaspersky at Chapple-Hyam’s Newmarket stables.

“She’s had five days sitting on him and taken him out in the afternoon for a hose off and a pick of grass, so she he knows her now,” she said.

“That’s an important thing for Michelle. She knows she gets on with the horse, It’s hard for a rider if they are fighting with the animal.

“She settles a horse very well and gets them into a rhythm and that can only be a good thing.

“He’ll be walking around the parade ring and as soon as she gets on him, he’ll puff up.”

Kaspersky’s drawn in barrier three, two up from odds-on favourite Ribchester, and with tempartures set to be above 30 degrees, fast ground is expected, something Chapple-Hyam’s unfazed by.

“I am not worried by the draw because there will be two pace makers in the race, one for Ribchester and one for Lightning Spear the second favourite,” she said.

“They’ll expect us to go forward, but if the pacemakers are there let them do their job just as long as they don’t interfere.

“He’s won his Group Twos in Germany on good to firm so that is not a problem.

“If he finishes in the top six we’ll be very happy.”

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