Hugo Palmer’s Ebro River entered the Royal Ascot equation with a striking victory in the Coral “Beaten By A Length” National Stakes at Sandown.
Out of Palmer’s 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold, he arrived having finished sixth to Forca Brasil on debut before running out a ready winner at Doncaster.
Sent off at 4-1, he blew the start and conceded plenty of ground – which over five furlongs usually means race over, but James Doyle soon had him back on an even keel.
The most impressive part of his performance came with a furlong to run when he hit the front and quickly shot clear.
He was so far in front that he was able to survive a marked drift to his left and still beat Little Earl by three and a quarter lengths.
Palmer said: “I was stuck on the motorway rather than on course, but managed to pull over and see the race. I’m obviously delighted.
“He’s looked very smart from the first day he came in. He’s obviously still a bit babyish and has a few crinkles to iron out – how we do that, I’m not sure.”
Betfair and Paddy Power introduced the winner into their Coventry Stakes betting at 14-1.
Considering options, Palmer said: “I’m not sure which race at Ascot yet, he wouldn’t be able to give away four lengths in the Norfolk like he did tonight.
“He’ll be fine on any ground and it isn’t a surprise he’s so precocious – Galileo Gold would have won at two in April if he had an owner, but I still had him.
“This horse will get a mile in time, but we’ll gradually step him up as the season progresses. He’s got some growing up to do.”
He added: “He got quite warm there and Ebro River might have been the only person who didn’t want to see at crowd at Sandown tonight!”
Doyle said: “He has plenty of talent. He is tricky, there is no getting away from that, but the guys have done a great job with him from day one and he has always shown us a lot of ability in his gallops. But he does have that trademark of running around a bit when he gets there.
“You would hope it is something he would grow out of with more experience. We just have to be mindful of it, I guess.
“I didn’t foresee them racing off the fence, so then I had no cover and it was a little bit messy, but he is super talented and has shown that on each occasion.
“As we know Ascot is quite wide open so you don’t want to be doing too much running around there. He doesn’t tend to jump that quick and I don’t think that will be a problem at Ascot.
“He is quick and travels very easily and almost over-races through the early part of the race. Obviously the Coventry is generally the race you want to win as it can make stallions. I think if we can get those creases ironed out in the early part of his race and get the timing a bit better, the six shouldn’t be a problem.”