Acclaim The Nation ran out a decisive winner of the opening Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap at York.
A field of 21 runners went to post for the first race of an Ebor Festival which will be run behind closed doors, with Eric Alston’s Acclaim The Nation an 18-1 shot having finished second in three of his last four starts.
Sporting a sheepskin noseband, the seven-year-old raced on the speed from the start under Jason Hart and kicked a couple of lengths clear of his rivals approaching the final furlong.
Soldier’s Minute finished strongly on the far side of the track, but Acclaim The Nation was always doing enough to hold him at bay and there was a length and a quarter between the pair at the line.
Tarboosh and Arecibo finished close up in third and fourth respectively.
Alston, who also had Jabbarockie beaten in a photo for fifth, said: “There might not have been much between them, but Jabbarockie was drawn the wrong side.
“I thought Acclaim The Nation might struggle to get home over five-and-a-half as he barely gets five some days.
“Jason said he took him easy to halfway and then he took off again. He won quite well.
“He’s in the sales on Monday, so thinking about targets is hard. If we keep him, you’d think maybe the Portland might suit at Doncaster as he’s won there before.”
Having earlier landed the Acomb Stakes with Gear Up, trainer Mark Johnston completed a double with Summer Moon in the Sky Bet Handicap.
The 18-1 chance saw out the two-mile distance strongly under a power-packed ride from Joe Fanning to get up and beat Rajinsky by three-quarters of a length.
Johnston said: “This horse deserves a good one. The race was set up for him a wee bit, but he was tough at the finish.
“We wondered at Goodwood last time whether he didn’t quite get the two and a half miles, but he ran a great race in the Cesarewitch last year and I’m sure that will be his end-of-season target. Hopefully the prize-money will have gone back up by then!”
Karl Burke and Danny Tudhope combined to claim the Sky Bet Fillies’ Sprint Handicap with Lady In France.
The 12-1 shot had finished last of six on her only previous start this year at Doncaster in June, but bounced back with a half-length triumph to set up a bid for a repeat win in next month’s Scottish Fillies’ Sprint Stakes at Ayr.
“That was sweet. I thought she looked great beforehand and she had come on so much for her first run,” said Burke.
“She had a big old weight on her back. She has so much natural speed and you don’t want to be pulling her back. Thankfully there was just enough pace on for her and I’m delighted to get a winner for the owners (Clipper Logistics).
“She won a Listed race last year at Ayr and she’ll go back for that race at the Western meeting.”
The concluding Sky Bet Nursery Handicap went to Cairn Island (9-2), trained by Kevin Ryan and ridden by Andrea Atzeni.
A winner on his third career start at Ayr three weeks ago, the Kodiac colt followed up with a neck verdict over Perotto.
Ryan said: “He’s a horse we’ve always liked and he’s improving with racing – he’s mentally getting into it.
“He was tough there. They went a good gallop and he was headed, but Andrea said he just put his head down and fought back.”