Cape Byron held off the gallant Kynren to land the Tote Victoria Cup at Ascot.
With over £100,000 on offer, a hugely competitive field of course-and-distance specialists had gathered and the fact it was 7-1 the field showed how open it was.
Last year’s winner Ripp Orf and Hayley Turner were taken off their feet in the initial stages before getting into contention late on, but Kaeso and Lake Volta set such fractions that the field had stretched out with a furlong to run.
Cape Byron and Andrea Atzeni (8-1) burst through to lead, but favourite Kynren was beginning to stay on under Robert Winston.
Cape Byron was in desperate need of the line as Kynren was bearing down on him, but Roger Varian’s five-year-old, who was placed in three heritage handicaps last summer, held on by a neck.
“I was really impressed as we’ve been worried about the ground all day,” said Varian.
“He’s got form on good to soft, but I promise he’s better on a sounder surface.
“I’d have been heartbroken if he’d come second again as he hit the crossbar in a couple of these big races last year, but he’s trained well all spring and this has been the plan for eight to 10 weeks so I’m delighted for the owner.”
Atzeni told ITV Racing: “He deserved it as he’s been knocking on the door in these big handicaps.
“We were happy with him at home, but he was coming off a long break so we weren’t sure if he was fit enough, we also weren’t sure about the ground.
“Early on we weren’t going much of a gallop and the key with the fellow is getting him to relax. At halfway I got him relaxed and could ride a race.”
Epsom’s Coronation Cup is once again the aim for Salouen after a straightforward win in the Carey Group Buckhounds Stakes.
Sylvester Kirk’s stable star pushed Cracksman all the way in the Group One last year and ran well in the Arc, but he arrived with only two wins from 22 runs to his name.
Against three rivals, Oisin Murphy kept things simple and he drew further and further clear in the straight, turning the tables on last year’s winner Barsanti, who was eventually beaten for second by What About Carlo, some seven lengths adrift.
“I was really impressed with that as I thought he might need the run,” said Kirk.
“He’ll go straight to the Coronation Cup now, where hopefully he can go one better.
“He enjoys himself in front, he got an easy lead in the Coronation last year, but it looks like he’s come back in great form which is important.
“Soft ground definitely helps him. When he went to Hong Kong, the ground was too firm.
“He’s a massive horse for us and I’m grateful that the owner has left him with me.”
Kirk later doubled up with Bubble And Squeak (14-1) in the St. James’s Place Wealth Management British EBF Premier Fillies’ Handicap under Jason Watson.
There was also a Royal winner when Sir Michael Stoute’s Sextant (7-1) ran out an impressive victor of the Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap with Louis Steward in the Queen’s colours.