After a brief scare Defoe ran out a ready winner of the Dunaden Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket.
A furlong out James Doyle made a bold bid for the rail on Red Verdon and at one stage he was a good three or four lengths clear of the odds-on market leader.
Andrea Atzeni did not panic, though, and the 1-2 favourite hit top gear going into the dip and powered clear up the hill.
The four-year-old has now only met with defeat once in his last seven outings and that came in the St Leger, when he clearly did not give his true running.
Only supplemented into the Group Two on Monday by connections, Roger Varian’s Defoe repaid them in no uncertain terms.
Atzeni said: “I could see James on the far rail, but I’d already made a plan to follow Oisin (Murphy, on Count Octave) and I couldn’t switch.
“He did well to win, at one point when James grabbed the rail I thought ‘we need a good horse here to pick him up’, but when he hit the rising ground he galloped out nicely.
“We don’t know how good this fellow is, he keeps improving and could be anything.”
Varian said: “It was a tough race to watch and it always threatened to be a tactical race, they went steady but Andrea always looked comfortable.
“James made a very good move on the blind side and it looked like he might have stolen it.
“I was really impressed with him and he got us out of trouble. It looked like he was about eight lengths out of his ground and he had to pick it up and see it out strongly up the hill.
“As hard as it was to watch, the result was impressive in the manner he did it.
“I was very grateful to the owner for supplementing him, he’s in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (at the Curragh) in three weeks and it’s a route we’d still like to go down, but we’ll see how he is and how he trains in the next 10 days.
“Royal Ascot is the aim, but ground might dictate our plans.
“We got away with it today but if the ground got quick we might have to protect him.”
Ed Dunlop, Red Verdon’s trainer, said: “It was a very nice run and we nearly nicked it, but the winner is a very good horse.
“He is very adaptable, as we tried the marathon route on the all-weather, but I’d say the winner is a Group One horse.
“He’s in the Hardwicke and various other races and that could be under consideration. The owners likes to go to Melbourne, as you know, and while it seems early, it might be something to think about in time.”