A Winterbottom Stakes campaign beckons for star three-year-old Special Reward, following a career best performance in the Vale Kent Johnston Handicap (1200m) at Ascot today.

The son of Demerit was forced to settle three-wide without cover for the sprint event, but fought on tenaciously to score a 3/4 length win.

Jockey Chloe Azzopardi was positive aboard Special Reward from the wide barrier, but had to cover extra ground as The Velvet King and Senorita Bonita set a strong tempo.

The Simon Miller-trained gelding lifted over the closing stages when asked by Azzopardi and was too strong for The Velvet King, who was first-up.

Dia De La Raza produced a significantly improved performance in third, while Lordhelpmerun was unplaced on his return to racing.

Miller said he was unsure if he would back-up Special Reward in next week’s Group 3 Roma Cup (1200m), but indicated the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes in November shaped as an ideal long-term goal.

“It was his best win,” he said.

“He had a few negatives against him, but we punched forward and rocked along at a good speed and he was there at the end.

“There’s no doubt he will go again and the world is his oyster.

“The Winterbottom looks right up his alley.”

Special Reward bought up the second leg of a winning double for Miller, after Sophie’s Song took out the Deb Newton 50th Birthday Handicap earlier in the day (1400m).

Meanwhile, jockey Brodie Kirby was the headline act of the afternoon, riding four winners as he continued his impressive return to the saddle.

Kirby won aboard Mia Dolce, Salamaat, My Demi and Beg To Differ in what was his most successful afternoon in the saddle.

The up-and-coming hoop admitted he was surprised at how quickly he had regained top form in the saddle.

“I try to come to the races trying not to expect too much,” he told The Races WA.

“I just try to take it ride-by-ride.

“It’s a hard thing to do because it’s a pressured industry.

“I just try to ride the race as it comes.”

Elsewhere, Touch Of Silver kept up his winning ways, taking out the TABtouch Better Your Bet Handicap (1600m).

Tim Walker