Ayrton added even more shine to his outstanding record at Caulfield with a thrilling win in a photo finish to Friday’s A$175,000 Listed Evergreen Turf John Dillon Stakes (1400m).

The highly talented New Zealand-bred has now had seven starts at Caulfield for six wins, including black-type successes in the Gr.3 Victoria Handicap (1400m), the Listed Weekend Hussler (1400m) and Friday’s John Dillon Stakes.

Overall, the six-year-old Iffraaj gelding has had 21 starts for eight wins, three placings and A$906,975 in stakes. He has been a standout performer for Price Kent Racing Stable clients and syndicators Roll The Dice Racing.

Ayrton ventured west and was unplaced in the A$1.5 million Damien Oliver Gold Rush (1400m) in Perth on December 16, but a return to his favourite stomping ground brought an emphatic form reversal on Friday.

Ridden by Jamie Kah, who has been in the saddle for five of his victories, Ayrton jumped well before easing back to take a sit behind Buffalo River and Not An Option.

Kah presented Ayrton on the outside of that pair at the top of the Caulfield straight, and he soon quickened and went past them.

Ka Bling finished powerfully from third-last to provide a late scare, but Ayrton lunged at the line and held on by the skin of his teeth.

“He’s just such a tough horse,” Kah said. “I love this horse. He’s been great to me throughout my career. He was feeling the pinch late today, but he’s always so tough. Whenever I ride him, he tries his hardest.

“The race worked out perfectly for him in the end. I know that I can push him a bit in the early stages and he always comes back to me. The tempo ended up being beautiful, we got a good sit, and he’s just a push-button horse. I love him.”

Ayrton’s only defeat at Caulfield came in the Gr.1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) on November 18. Trainers Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr are now looking at giving him another Group One opportunity over the same course and distance.

“It was fantastic that he held on to win for the big ownership group that’s on course to see him today,” Price and Kent’s racing manager Tom Sheahan said. “We’ll let the dust settle after this, and then we could aim higher again. There’s a 1400m Listed race in a couple of weeks that might be a nice option, and then there’s the Futurity Stakes (on February 24).”

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.

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