The roller-coaster career of highly talented galloper Ayrton (NZ) (Iffraaj) got back on the right track with a tenacious performance to win Saturday’s Listed The Big Screen Company Weekend Hussler (1400m) at Caulfield.
The New Zealand-bred son of Iffraaj made waves in the early stages of his career, winning six of his first eight starts including the Gr.3 Gunsynd Classic (1600m) and Gr.3 Victoria Handicap (1400m).
Trainers Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr have endured their share of trials and tribulations through the 18 months since the most recent of those wins, with Ayrton recording only one placing from his eight subsequent appearances.
But the Ayrton of old made a welcome return at Caulfield on Saturday, surging out of midfield and collaring the front-running Buffalo River (Noble Mission) at the 200m mark. That rival tried to respond to the challenge, with Stageman (Written Tycoon) and Rubamos (I Am Invincible) joining in late, but Ayrton held them all out by a short neck.
“I ride a lot for this stable and have ridden lots of winners, so it is good to team back up with this horse and get a long-awaited win for the owners,” jockey Damian Lane said.
“I got it right because the number is in the frame, but it was close to being wrong. I was tracking Regardsmaree (So You Think), going lovely, and I just wondered if Billy (Egan) was giving Buffalo River enough respect. So I got out and collared him quite quickly. I was in front quite early for a horse that was first-up over 1400m. As you can see, he got a bit tired late.
“All’s well that ends well, but I think he’ll benefit from the run and hopefully he’s got another good race in him.”
Price was relieved to see Ayrton back to his best after a long ordeal that dates back to a spider bite more than a year ago.
“He had a lot of toxicity in his system,” he said. “We suspect it was a white-tailed spider. We nursed him and nursed him. He was a very sick horse.
“He could have easily called it a day and gone to heaven. I wasn’t sure whether he’d come back today or ever, but today is a great day for the owners and the staff.
“He’s had a different training regime. We took him to our beach stable and brought him in. We’ve been kind to him. The race set up beautifully, and D Lane had him one out and one back in a perfect spot.
“So I’m hoping he can go on. We found a few things out about him – don’t go past a mile, don’t run on wet tracks, and train him like a bit of a girl.”
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.