Payne set to return to riding

MICHELLE Payne is preparing to return to race riding later this next month.

Payne has been off the scene since suffering back and facial injuries, and concussion at Ararat in September.

“It’s going really well,” Payne said. 

“I’ve been riding a lot of trackwork at (brother) Patrick’s farm out at Rockbank and my fitness is coming along really well.

“I’m aiming to be back by the end of January,” she said.

Payne is hoping to be fit enough to ride in Tasmanian Summer Carnival.

Payne, who was last year’s Ballarat Cup ambassador, remains committed to a short-term career, planning to retire in about two years.

“I don’t want push my luck too far,” she said.

Payne’s comeback is paralleling Katelyn Mallyon’s.

Mallyon suffered a broken back in a fall at Flemington in May.

“I’ve got to see my specialist on February 7 with my last X-rays and he said I can pretty much ride the next day,” Mallyon said. “It’s been eight months now and my specialist wants it to be the nine-month mark.

WHAT a day Ballarat trainer Dan O’Sullivan had at Flemington on New Year’s Day.

Versatile stayer Tuscan Fire (2.25 favourite) led all-the-way over 2000m to break a run of minor placings and emerging galloper British General ($2.90 favourite) made it back-to-back city wins over 1400m. 

It was O’Sullivan’s first metropolitan double in eight years.

Tuscan Fire, who last year made a name for himself as a hurdler, now has eight wins in his 41 starts more than $250,000 in stakes.

Jockey Glen Boss described Tuscan Fire as a “lovely off season stayer”. 

While Tuscan Fire will again return to jumping later in the year when the Galleywood Hurdle during the Warrnambool May Carnival will be a major target – he finish fourth to Black and Bent in the feature last year.

In the meantime though Tuscan Fire and British General are set to chase more summer success.

O’Sullivan plans to race each again this month – Tuscan Fire in a week and British General most likely in two weeks.

DISAPPOINTING end to the racing career of international stayer Unusual Suspect.

Parted own by Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, he will not race again after breaking down in the Bagot Handicap at Flemington on Tuesday. 

Cranbourne trainer Mick Kent had been considering a trip to New Zealand for the Auckland Cup with Unusual Suspect, which opened his Australian winning account in the Werribee Cup late last month.

He was in last preparation with connections looking for an overseas stud to take on the United States grade 1 winner.

The Ballan-district based ATB acquired a substantial share of Unusual Suspect in the last week leading into the 2011 Melbourne Cup.

He ran in the Cup, finishing in the top 10, before backing up again last year.

It has not been all bad news for ATB.

New overseas acquisition Chocolicious won the listed Raynor Logistics Conditions Plate in South Africa and two-year-old Ticket To Toorak has arrived on the Gold Coast for the $2 million Magic Millions Classic next Saturday.

Trained by Matthew Williams at Warrnambool, won on debut in Ballarat and then finished second in the Ballarat Magic Millions Clockwise Classic.

KYLIE Vella has again shown why any starters from her Ballarat stable should be respected first-up.

Three-year-old filly Whispering Miss ($2.80) scored on debut in a maiden, 1000m, at Terang on Tuesday.

Husband Steve Vella was in the saddle for their first win in more than 12 months.

The Vellas have a great strike rate with first-up runners.

This was their first starter since July and they almost made it two for the week with a close-up second at Kyneton on Thursday.

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