Ayrton draws the car park in The Damien Oliver

1 November 2023 Written by Racing & Sports

Ayrton will have to overcome the widest draw if he is to win The Damien Oliver at Flemington.

In-form jockey Mark Zahra will have to perform a bit of magic if he is to guide Ayrton to back-to-back victories from a spell. 

Victorious in the Caulfield Cup before riding four winners on Cox Plate Day, Zahra has drawn the widest barrier aboard Ayrton in the Group 2 The Damien Oliver (1400m) at Flemington Saturday. 

The Damien Oliver replaces the Linlithgow Stakes to celebrate the riding career of the champion jockey who is riding at his final Victoria Derby Day meeting on Saturday. 

Oliver partners Godolphin galloper Vilana in the race named in his honour on Saturday who is coming off a last start fifth in the Group 3 Sydney Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on October 14. 

Ayrton made a strong return to racing when successful in the Listed Weekend Hussler (1400m) at Caulfield on October 14. 

The Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr-trained galloper had been in the wilderness for 18 months after winning at Caulfield in April 2022. 

Ayrton won six of his first eight starts and was successful in Group 3 company in Brisbane, but a spider bite in September 2021 had an effect on the gelding and Price was concerned whether Ayrton would return to his best form. 

Barrier 17 makes it difficult on Saturday, but Price said Ayrton had trained on well since his first-up victory at Caulfield. 

"He worked super on Saturday morning. Matthew Chadwick rode him," Price said. 

"It's 1400 metres on Saturday, it's on top of the ground and he's going great. 

"He seems to have trained on from his last start. 

"He was one out and one back the other day first-up off a long time, but he still did the job. 

"He's improved from racing, he hasn't been asked to improve too much from trackwork. He works up on the bridle all the time and he's very well in himself, so it will be wait and see."