Racing: Payne's colt aims for a Grand finale

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THERE ARE actually more than a trio of runners scheduled to launch themselves down the last seven furlongs of the Rowley Mile in Saturday's 121st running of the Dewhurst Stakes. All the hype has been over the perceived big three - Enrique, Lujain and Stravinsky - almost to the exclusion of anything else. But perhaps it should not be forgotten that a certain Generous was 50 - yes, five-o - to 1 when he won less than a decade ago.

The unheralded outsider in this year's field, if the bookmakers are to be believed, is Raise A Grand, quoted at 40-1 by Ladbrokes yesterday. The good-looking chestnut has been carrying high the banner of one of Newmarket's smaller yards - Pip Payne's Frankland Lodge - but he is not merely a big fish in a little pond. He would be a fine catch for any stable.

Raise A Grand will be Payne's first juvenile Group One runner and comes to the fray with more than acceptable credentials. He has won three of his five runs and his most recent victory, a smooth one in the Solario Stakes, was preceded by a three-length second to none other than subsequent Prix de la Salamandre hero Aljabr, the pro tempore leader of the division, in the Champagne Stakes at Goodwood.

Payne is aware that the step up from Group Three is one not to be taken lightly but considers that Raise A Grand is fully worthy of at least a try. ``Everything we've asked him to do so far he's done well,'' he said. ``He was unfortunate in his first race when he got carried wide but he ran on very well. Then at Goodwood the ground came up very soft, which he didn't like at all.

``On more suitable ground he could possibly have finished closer to Aljabr, who undoubtedly improved between Goodwood and Longchamp but then I think our horse has improved as well. So if you put him within a length of Aljabr, then you put him in Saturday's race.''

Raise A Grand, a son of 1993 Dewhurst Stakes winner Grand Lodge, carries the green and light blue silks of the Hong Kong-based businessman Nagy Azar, a long-time patron of Payne's, and was, at 190,000 guineas, the second most expensive colt at last year's October yearling auction. The trainer was back at the Tattersalls sales complex yesterday, combing the catalogue. ``Anyone could see he was a nice horse,'' he said. ``Well bred, with good conformation. He went for a little more than we'd valued him at but decided to hang on in a bit longer.''

Payne comes from a long line of shrewd and capable horsemen. His great- grandfather Bill Payne was champion jump jockey in 1911 and trained the 1927 Champion Hurdler Blaris and the 1953 Coronation Cup winner Zucchero. His father "Young Bill'' (now aged 88) would have won the 1928 Grand National had not Great Span's saddle slipped two out. Not so many years ago three generations of the family could be seen riding out together on Newmarket Heath: Bill, Pip and Pip's eldest son, James.

Payne has just 10 horses under his care at present but said: ``That's enough when they're nice ones with good owners. It's all too easy to fill a yard up with lots of bad horses and owners who don't pay. I consider myself lucky.''

The only caveat over Raise A Grand's participation on Saturday is the ground. The colt, the mount of Gary Carter, will run only if it remains as it currently is, good. ``He's won a Group Three very nicely and he's a healthy, fresh horse that's a real professional. And he's got racing experience on his side, he knows how to compete. I reckon that 40-1 is pretty good value.''

Stravinsky, runner-up to Aljabr in the Salamandre on soft going and then disqualified because of his novicey sideways dive across some of his rivals under pressure, was yesterday confirmed as Aidan O'Brien's sole Dewhurst challenger after pleasing in his morning workout.

The other Ballydoyle entry, Orpen, is likely to tackle next month's Breeders Cup Juvenile in Kentucky. ``Stravinsky worked very well. It was just a good pipe-opener but I am very pleased," O'Brien said.

The Irish colt, whose trainer is another hoping the rain stays away from Suffolk, is jostling with the Henry Cecil-trained Enrique at the head of the early lists for the race that often produces the winter 2,000 Guineas favourite and sometimes - in the cases of Zafonic and Pennekamp recently - the winner.

The third market choice Lujain, whose owner Sheikh Mohammed tried to recruit Enrique from the Niarchos family to his Godolphin squad earlier in the year, must buck an historical trend to succeed. Only two Middle Park Stakes winners this century have followed up in the Dewhurst, Diesis in 1982 and Bayardo in 1908.