Al Muffrih found a perfect seam on the far rail to lead inside the final furlong and justify strong market support in the Racing TV Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar.
Wearing a hood for the first time in the Bank Holiday highlight, the William Haggas-trained gelding landed the spoils despite being strongly challenged by Leroy Leroy in the closing stages.
Danny Tudhope had Al Muffrih handy just off a decent pace set by Sands Chorus, with Epaulement and Commander Han close up, before the jockey took advantage of a gap to take his mount to the rail at the three-furlong marker.
The Middleham Park Racing-owned pair of Leroy Leroy and Ventura Knight put in their bids towards the centre of the course, and Al Muffrih (6-4 favourite) had to dig deep to get the verdict by a head from Leroy Leroy. Ventura Knight was three lengths away in third place.
Haggas is hoping this success will prove a turning point in Al Muffrih’s career, after what was only the four-year-old’s fifth start.
“He won, but it looked as though he still didn’t have a clue what he was doing,” said the Newmarket trainer, who also struck with Celtic Manor at Windsor.
“The most important thing today was that he relaxed and raced. That was the first time in his life he has raced properly.
“I know he’s had a few races, but that’s the first time he’s actually dropped the bit and raced, and he’s had a race. It looked like he didn’t know what he was doing up the straight.
“The hood made a big difference, but we’ve got a boy here called Alex, who has done a fantastic job because he’s not a straightforward horse.
“The horse has been very good this year, much more settled, but then at Newmarket he was just back to his old self which was really disappointing. At least this time he raced properly and we can go forward.”
He added: “I don’t know about Royal Ascot. My gut feeling is we need to go again in a nice race, but I don’t know whether we stay at this trip or go up. We’ll see.”