Jockey Tom Marquand admits Alenquer will need to take a step forward if he is to land the Coral-Eclipse next Saturday (2nd July), but he believes the Group One-winning colt has a couple of “strings to his bow” that can help him achieve victory in the Sandown Park feature.
The Classic-winning rider will join forces with the William Haggas-trained son of Adlerflug, who he has partnered on eight of his 10 career starts to date, in the Group One mile and a quarter contest which this year is worth £750,000.
Having partnered Alenquer, who races in the colours of M M Stables, to Group One glory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh 41 days ago, Marquand will look to repeat the feat over the same course and distance the pair secured Group Three glory in the bet365 Classic Trial in April 2021.
The form of Alenquer’s latest success given a major boost at Royal Ascot, with third placed State Of Rest winning the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and fifth-placed Broome landing the Hardwicke Stakes, giving Marquand even further cause for optimism.
Marquand said: “The Coral-Eclipse is not an easy Group One by any means and being realistic he probably has to take another little step forward, not a leap, but there is no reason why he shouldn’t.
“Sandown is a beautiful track and it will be fair ground as they do a great job there. It is a stiff 10 furlongs there and he has won his Group One over a stiff 10 at The Curragh.
“The form of his Group One win at the Curragh has worked out well with State Of Rest coming out winning the Prince Of Wales’s at Royal Ascot and Broome winning the Hardwicke.
“While that is not a life changer it is a bonus to see it all falling into place the coming weeks afterwards.
“We have a couple of strings to our bow in the fact he loves Sandown and that the stiff finish there should suit him perfectly again.
“We know he loves a fight which at Sandown if you want one at your side when they come to the furlong pole snapping at your heels you would want him.”
Alenquer is an 8-1 chance for Eclipse glory with sponsor Coral. Coral has backed the Eclipse since 1976 in what is the longest-running Group race sponsorship anywhere in the world.
While Marquand could not have predicted what Alenquer would go on to achieve following his winning debut at Newbury back in August 2020, he admits he left the Berkshire track that day with a positive impression.
Marquand said: “He won impressively on debut at Newbury but there was a lot to work on as he was a teenager.
“He loved the soft ground that day and it probably helped him get away with winning first time as being a bit green it brought everything back to him a bit.
“When they win first time out it just pricks your ears and puts them on the radar. When he won you got excited and started hunting where he might be heading next.
“He was still doing things a little bit wrong when he was beaten next time out by Fancy Man in a Listed race at Haydock Park as he hung a little bit but he ran super.
“It might have been disappointing on the day getting turned over but when you look at it you realise it was a big step up but there is a horse there to play with and that it was a step in the right direction.”
Victory in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes at the Royal meeting was arguably the highlight of Alenquer’s campaign last season which also saw him take in the Juddmonte International at York, along with the Grand Prix de Paris and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, both at Paris-Longchamp.
However, the bond Marquand would go on to strengthen throughout 2021 with Alenquer nearly got off to the worst possible start according to the rider.
He added: “I’d been over with Addeybb and that crowd in Australia and I actually nearly missed the ride on him as the quarantine period was putting me wrong.
“Addeybb run on the Saturday in Australia and I got straight on a plane and flew back but the quarantine period was seven days at the time.
“I wasn’t able to get a sport exemption at first and I didn’t think I would be able to ride him on the Friday as my first day back was on the Saturday.
“All of a sudden I was able to get an exemption for sport for the fact I’d only been in the racing circle and the fact I done nothing else for the five days before I left Australia.
“He was actually my first ride back in Britain from Australia so it was a good start back to the turf season and as you say the form line is impeccable really.
“It was disappointing that he missed the Derby but Ascot was a back-up and he won there really well and that was a bit of redemption for missing the Derby.
“I thought at York on that quicker ground over a mile and a quarter he struggled against those with speed. Mishriff picked us up at the two and a half and he felt like he was crying out for either a stiffer track or to go back to a mile and a half.
“The Arc run wasn’t a bad run by any means with no major excuses. It has probably strengthened up and done well with another winter on his back.”
This year saw Alenquer make a winning return in the Group Three Winter Derby at Lingfield before finishing sixth upped back to Group One level in the Sheema Classic at Meydan in March.
Although a few things went against Alenquer in Meydan on his penultimate outing Marquand was pleased to see him bounce back at the Curragh with a victory that he now hopes is a sign of things to come for the remainder of the campaign.
He added: “In Dubai he had excuses. He pulled a shoe and my leather snapped and it all got a bit messy and it probably affected him mentally so it was a bit of a tough day.
“Ireland went a lot better than I could have planned. Ryan (Moore on High Definition) went a good gallop to drag the stamina out of Lord North and played it towards us.
“He was really tough that day and he stayed the stiff mile and quarter at the Curragh well and he had to tough it out at the end.
“I wouldn’t say we saw a new Alenquer at the Curragh, just a little bit of a stronger version of him. To be honest, it was what we thought was always there.
“I was convinced his Group One would come over a mile and a half but it was great that it came over 10 for his future prospects after he finishes racing.
“I’m delighted that he got his Group One early on in the year with hopefully more to come.”