New Zealand-bred gelding Ayrton will have his second taste of the Queensland winter carnival when he contests the Gr.2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast on Saturday.
The four-year-old gelding experienced a successful trip Brisbane last year when he finished runner-up in the Gr.3 Fred Best classic (1400m) before winning the Gr.3 Gunsynd Classic (1600m).
His spring campaign was cut short following a spider bite, but he returned in winning form last month after a seven-month hiatus to win the Gr.3 Victoria Handicap (1400m).
Mick Price, who trains the gelding in partnership with Michael Kent Jnr, was pleased with the win, particularly given he thought the horse wasn’t at full fitness heading into the race.
“It did impress me because I thought he was underdone,” Price told RacingHQ.
“The Tuesday before, he had a gallop and by the time they gallop here at Cranbourne and make their way back to you, the fit horses are usually not blowing, and he was still having a blow.
“It was about seven months between runs. In his favour, he did no work, got through a little gap and dashed up in the last 250m and won a Group Three.”
Price said Ayrton didn’t miss a lot of work when he travelled up to Queensland, but he said it will be interesting to see how he handles 1800m for the first time.
“He is second-up over 1800m and three weeks in between runs is ideal. We had to have a little plan to get him up there,” he said.
“He only missed one gallop. It is difficult to travel your horse and gallop them and expect he is going to cope with everything.
“He missed last Saturday morning’s gallop and I don’t think it will be too much against him.
“It will be interesting to see how he goes. I have always thought his best distance was somewhere between a mile and 2000m.
“I am expecting him to run very well. Zaaki is obviously there and is going to be up on the speed.”
All going to plan, Ayrton will continue onto the Gr.1 Doomben Cup (2000m) and Gr.2 Q22 (2218m), but Price isn’t overly animated about the smaller tracks.
“There are a few things against him,” he said.
“I am guessing it is going to be a very solid race (on Saturday) and he is a big, long striding horse who is going to have to get around the Gold Coast (track).
“I am not all that excited by the Gold Coast circuit and Doomben for him, but they are the races that he is going to tackle.”
While the tracks are a query, Price said he is looking forward to getting his charge over further ground, with an eye towards the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) in the spring.
“Now is his second chapter of what we want to do with him and that is make a 2000m horse out of him,” Price said.
“If this preparation was successful, you would be putting a circle around the Cox Plate.”
Ayrton was bred by Cambridge accountant Greg McCarthy, who remains in the ownership group after a private sale was negotiated by bloodstock agent Phill Cataldo after the horse finished second in his only trial in New Zealand at Te Teko for trainer Lauren Brennan.
– NZ Racing Desk