William Haggas hailed the battling qualities of Alenquer following the four-year-old’s first win at the highest level in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.
Winner of the Sandown Classic Trial last season in which he beat subsequent Derby and King George winner Adayar, Alenquer went on to claim the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Placed in Group Ones in France and at York afterwards, he returned to action with victory in the Winter Derby, which was used as a prep race for Dubai, and while only sixth in the Sheema Classic, he was beaten just over a length.
Aidan O’Brien’s one-time Derby favourite High Definition set off to make this a real test – and when with three furlongs to run Ryan Moore kicked on and High Definition quickened clear, for a few strides the giant colt looked like he had slipped the field.
Eventually the three market principals, Lord North, State Of Rest and Alenquer, began to close in and it was Frankie Dettori who led the way on 2-1 joint-favourite Lord North.
His effort began to peter out, though, and Tom Marquand and Alenquer, with State Of Rest a length behind him, loomed with every stride.
While High Definition answered every call, inside the final 100 yards Marquand put his whip down and the 7-2 shot won going away by a neck, with the same back to the other market leader, State Of Rest.
The victory completed a memorable few days for Haggas, who won the Lockinge last weekend with Baaeed, had 10 winners through the week and also won the German Guineas on Sunday with Maljoom.
“He was marvellous. He’s a very brave horse and it was a cracking race. He was given a fantastic ride,” said Haggas from his Newmarket base.
“I think a really strong run 10-furlongs is ideal for him and that was the case today, he kept going, he’s so, so tough.
“I actually think he’ll be better with a bit more dig in the ground but how can I say that, he’s won really nicely.”
Alenquer holds entries in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot, but Haggas would favour skipping the meeting and waiting for the Coral-Eclipse a couple of weeks later on July 2.
“I’d fancy the Eclipse myself, but I haven’t discussed that with anyone else,” said Haggas.
“I think the Eclipse is the right race for him. It’s been an extraordinary couple of weeks, we’re just pinching ourselves to be honest.”
The sponsors make Alenquer an 8-1 chance for the Eclipse.
A jubilant Marquand told RTE: “That’s my first ride in Ireland, I didn’t even know the way to the start an hour ago!
“This horse had a trip over to Dubai in the winter and he ran super over there and we had excuses.
“We always thought we would win a Group One over a mile and a half. Today being a mile and a quarter is hopefully a sign there are better things to come from him.
“He’s hardy and that was a great performance. He really had to dig deep there and it is a stiff last furlong.
“To be honest, I was always really happy. As playful as he might be, he really digs deep when he has to.
“It is wonderful for William Haggas and the team at home because he is not the easiest.”
Haggas was represented on track by his wife, Maureen, who said: “He’s a very tough horse and he deserved to win a Group One.
“He was ridden beautifully by Tom. We were late arriving and he said ‘please don’t make me go down first as I don’t know how to get to the start!’.
“He knows him really well and the horse is as hard as nails. The more you ask the more he gives.
“He’s always been a nice horse, but he keeps surprising us a bit. I think ground is important and it is on the slow side here.
“He won over a mile and a half at Ascot last year, but his top-class form is over a mile and a quarter.
“I thought he had a hard enough race today, but looking at him there is not a bother on him.”