Firmer ground has Ayrton on track for bold Stradbroke showing

Ayrton on track for Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap on Saturday despite a slight reservation from trainer Mick Price.

PROLIFIC Group 1-winning trainer Mick Price is mindful Stradbroke Handicap favourite Ayrton could be vulnerable dropping back to 1400m, but firmer ground at Eagle Farm will suit his star galloper.

Champion jockey Jamie Kah will partner Ayrton on Saturday before a well-earned European holiday.

Ayrton disappointed in the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) last start on a bog track at Gold Coast, but a sharp trial at Sunshine Coast last week has boosted Price’s spirits.

“I was up there (last) Tuesday for the trial and he looked really well, the only question is whether the Stradbroke is exactly the right race for him,” the 41-time Group 1-winning trainer said.

“I don‘t know whether he’s vulnerable at it (1400m) or not. Last year we switched him to the mile and he won.”

Kah boasts a stellar record aboard Ayrton, with four wins and a second from her five starts on the gelding.

She pulled off a miracle ride last year to clinch the Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Stakes on Vega One for local trainer Tony Gollan.

Ayrton was on a path towards the Q22, via the Doomben Cup, before the Hollindale flop.

“He sat outside the leader, it was a shocking track, bog and tight, I think he didn’t handle the ground,” Price, who trains in partnership with Michael Kent Jr, said.

“It’s not to say he doesn’t get 2000m, I’m not convinced he doesn’t yet.

“We were hardly going to persevere to the 2000m races (uncertainty on weather), so away we go.”

Ayrton has 54kg in the Stradbroke, down from the 59kg he carried in the Hollindale.

The four-year-old gelding, who missed seven months last year following a spider bite infection, won the Group 3 Victoria Handicap first-up at Caulfield.

Ayrton is a $5 TAB favourite for the $1.5m Stradbroke Handicap ahead of Group 1 Kingsford-Smith-winning Queenslander Apache Chase and Eleven Eleven.

Comeback hype horse Alligator Blood is a $9 chance after a breathtaking runner-up effort last start.

Ayrton is the sole Victorian-trained Stradbroke nominee given a serious chance, with Frankie Pinot ($26) and Brooklyn Hustle ($34) and Regardsmaree ($51) outsiders in TAB’s all-in market.

The Stradbroke field and barriers will be finalised on Tuesday.

Ayrton, if successful, would become Price’s first Queensland Group 1-winner.

The stable dominated the Adelaide carnival recently, adding the Group 1 Goodwood and South Australian Derby to build on a brilliant 2021-22 season.

Price and Kent Jr boasts an 18 per cent city strike rate Australia-wide this season, with 48 winners and $11.9m prizemoney from metropolitan starts.

Only super stables Chris Waller ($42m), Ciaron Maher and David Eustace ($21m) and James Cumming ($17) have banked more in town.

Originally published as Mick Price expects Stradbroke Handicap favourite Ayrton to rediscover his best form on firmer ground