Craig Williams has surged ahead in the Melbourne jockeys’ premiership but Damian Lane will not be giving up without a fight.
A winning treble to Williams at Sandown on Wednesday sent the six-time premiership winner five wins clear until Lane pegged one back in the final race.
Lane gets the opportunity to chip away at the deficit with a good book of rides at Flemington on Saturday, headlined by boom sprinter Nature Strip.
Lane, chasing a first Melbourne premiership, missed two city meetings last week while he was on holiday but cut short his break to give himself a shot at the title.
“Obviously I wanted to have a longer break,” Lane said.
“The spring is always the main goal in mind, but with being so close and being in range I think it’s something you do have in the back of your mind.
“I thought I’d come back early and just give myself every chance to do my best.
“I’ll just keep turning up and doing my best, as I do, and what will be will be.”
Lane has three early favourites among his six rides on Saturday, including odds-on favourite Nature Strip in the A R Creswick Series Final (1200m).
Williams also has a strong book of nine rides including favourites Mintha ($2.30) and Sixties Groove ($1.70) along with a host of other rides at single-figure odds.
Lane rode Nature Strip in trackwork a couple of times before partnering him in a race for the first time on June 23 when he scored a dominant 4-1/2 length win at Flemington at his first start since being transferred to trainer Darren Weir.
“Obviously I’m really looking forward to riding him on Saturday and just hoping that everything goes right for him again,” Lane said.
“Hopefully he can show the same as he did last start.
“He gave me the feel of a top-class horse.
“I guess the worry at the moment would be if he’s going to be too one-dimensional, but in a stable like Darren’s you know that they’re going to get every opportunity to learn to do things properly and I think he’s taken the right steps.
“Saturday is another test for him.”
Nature Strip was beaten in his only try over 1200m but Lane does not think the distance should worry him.
“I think the way he won over 1100 metres last start, he was only going to get further in front,” he said.
“So if he can rate himself like he did last start then I think he’ll run the 1200.”
DAMIAN LANE’S FLEMINGTON RIDES
Race 2: Grand Dreamer ($7.50) VRC-CRV Cup Tour Trophy (2000m)
Race 4: Gaulois ($4.40 fav) Silver Bowl Series Final (1600m)
Race 5: Inkslinger ($23) Taj Rossi Series Final (1600m)
Race 6: High Church ($9) Banjo Paterson Series Final (2600m)
Race 7: Nature Strip ($1.45 fav) A R Creswick Series Final (1200m)
Race 8: Ozi Choice ($4.60 fav) Winter Championship Series Final (1600m)