It was hardly a resounding statement by Silent Explorer, but David Payne believes he has a rising star after the gelding broke his maiden at Warwick Farm.
The two-year-old vindicated the South African-born trainer's affection for stallion Lope De Vega by claiming the #Theraces Plate (1200m) by a nose.
Connections and jockey Keagan Latham then faced an anxious wait until Racing NSW stewards dismissed a protest by Jason Collett, the rider of second-placed Sunsuzie.
Collett argued Sunsuzie ($4.50) had been disadvantaged when Silent Explorer ($16) shifted out near the line, but stewards were not convinced the filly was denied her first victory.
Payne was not at the track to join the defence, but not overly worried.
"We didn't interfere with the second horse and the race was over, it as right on the line. He was always going to win it," he said.
Silent Explorer was unplaced on debut at Rosehill but showed the necessary improvement to get off the mark before Payne's other two-year-olds sired by Lope De Vega, Heavenly Thunder and Toulouse.
"He's still a little bit fat, and still a bit of a baby but he's a good horse," Payne said.
"He's not a bad purchase for $18,000, he's paid for himself today."
Payne was initially drawn to Lope De Vega through Be Like Dad, who has made more than $221,000.
Silent Explorer would likely spell before a return in the spring.
"He's still immature, Lope De Vega's only become horses later," Payne said.
Latham, who saluted for the first time in the city this season after just his eighth metropolitan ride, copped a five meeting suspension for careless riding.
He thought Silent Explorer would have won easier had he not have to restrain him at the post loomed.
"He's obviously a horse that still learning a lot, in the straight he was having a good look around and hanging out," he said.