David Payne has taken the blame for Navajo Peak's disappointing campaign, but he remains adamant the horse will respond to a distance rise in the JRA Plate at Randwick.

The five-year-old posted the most significant win of his career in last year's Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m), prompting Payne to target him at mile races over the autumn.

That plan appeared to be on track when the horse resumed with a competitive fourth to Fangirl in the Apollo Stakes (1400m) before his form tapered off, culminating in his latest unplaced effort in the Doncaster Mile.

In retrospect, Payne said he erred in restricting Navajo Peak to shorter journeys, and he expected a much-improved performance when the gelding stepped out over 2000 metres in Saturday's Group 3 Randwick feature.

"It was my fault, I thought he was more of a miler," Payne said.

"But they've been running him off his feet. He won the Chelmsford, that was a mile, and I thought, maybe that's his best distance. I think I'm wrong.

"The other day (in the Doncaster) he was off the bit from the start and struggling.

"But he's well and he will be more comfortable over 2000."

Prior to winning the Chelmsford Stakes last spring, Navajo Peak had an outstanding record over middle-distances.

His six runs over 1800m and beyond yielded three wins and three seconds, including stakes placings in the 2023 Gosford Cup (2100m) and the Listed Lord Mayor's Cup (2000m).

His only unplaced efforts came after the Chelmsford when he was midfield from a wide draw in the Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) and well beaten in the Metropolitan (2400m).

Having drawn double-figure alleys at his past two runs, Navajo Peak should appreciate a low draw in barrier five at Randwick with Chad Schofield booked for the ride.

He was a $16 chance in early markets with Liverpool City Cup runner-up New Energy a $4 favourite.