River Nymph swoops late for Victoria Cup glory
River Nymph came with a wet sail to lift the tote+ Victoria Cup at Ascot for Clive Cox and Adam Kirby.
The duo are no strangers to success at the Berkshire track, and landed the £75,000 pot with the unexposed four-year-old by half a length from 80-1 outsider Eagleway.
River Nymph had looked to have a big future last season when winning consecutive races at Ascot and Newbury, both over seven furlongs.
However, stepped up to a mile for the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day and the Lincoln at Doncaster on his seasonal return, River Nymph finished nearer last than first on both occasions.
Back over the specialist trip of seven furlongs, Kirby was able to save his mount for a late flourish deep inside the final furlong.
It was a typical big-field Ascot handicap with a furlong to run, with as many as 10 in a line across the track.
Eagleway could be spotted with his bright blinkers, with the favourite Acquitted, top weight Motakhayyel and Zip all to the fore.
River Nymph appeared to have plenty to do at that stage, but under a strong Kirby drive, the 11-1 chance hit top gear and won going away. Escobar was third with Zip fourth.
The winner is now likely to be stepped up in class.
Quite possibly it will be a Listed race next
Cox said: “It looks like he’s a seven-furlong specialist and he loves it here at Ascot.
“It was a very competitive renewal and I’m over the moon as he was 11lb higher than when he won here last season, so I’m very happy.
“I think he’ll be handicapped out of races like the Balmoral now, but to get that win means a lot.
“Quite possibly it will be a Listed race next. He doesn’t like the ground too firm, but he’s the sort of horse who has a change of gear, so is the type to handle a step up in class.
“He could be one to take to France, those races could suit. We’ll just play the cards accordingly.”
Albaflora ran out a hugely-impressive winner of the tote+ Pays More At tote.co.uk Buckhounds Stakes.
Ralph Beckett’s filly hinted there could be more to come from her this season when pushing St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco close at the end of last term.
Settled in mid-division by Rossa Ryan, the 4-1 favourite could be spotted travelling ominously well as the field, headed by Without A Fight, turned into the straight.
Ryan just needed to manoeuvre his mount into the clear to enable a smooth passage, but once she saw daylight she quickened away impressively.
Running in the famous Kirsten Rausing colours, she fairly powered away from a decent field with Tribal Craft, the 50-1 outsider, emerging from out of the pack to finish second – albeit seven lengths adrift.
Beckett said: “I thought she’d win, but I wasn’t expecting that.
“We had a frustrating year last year and I left Ascot frustrated after the Noel Murless as I thought she should have won that day.
She's in the Hardwicke which indicates what we felt about her
“She’s in the Hardwicke, which indicates what we felt about her. She could go to the Pinnacle (at Haydock) at the end of this month, but I’ll work it out.
“She’s done very well over the winter and Alyssa (half-sister) did better with age. Given how she’d done over the winter, it was no surprise she won. How good she’ll be, we’ll find out.”
Ryan then doubled up on David Loughnane’s newcomer Go Bears Go (6-1), who made just about every yard of the running against the rail in the tote+ Placepots Pay More Novice Stakes.
The two main market protagonists fought out the finish to the tote+ Exclusively At tote.co.uk British EBF Fillies’ Handicap, with top weight Lights On (3-1) just edging out Dreamloper.