The only American trainer with horses at the Dubai World Cup Carnival and is out to make a big impression at Meydan Racecourse.
American trainer Seth Benzel at Dubai World Cup Carnival to be noticed
Benzel, who is usually based in Saratoga, California and winters in New York, has been training only five years, but after receiving one of the best educations in the business he has progressed through the ranks rapidly.
The 37 year old learnt his trade under Bill Mott, who won the inaugural Dubai World Cup with Cigar, and Todd Pletcher, the quadruple Eclipse Award winner.
Benzel has been in Dubai for two weeks with his small string of horses and is hoping for at least a slice of the US$285,000 (Dh1 million) for which Maritimer and Dux Scholar compete.
Maritimer, Canada's champion juvenile, was trained last year by Herman Brown but missed most of his Classic season after he spent 60 days in quarantine following his lacklustre effort when 11th in the UAE Derby.
The four year old runs over 1,900m in the Potlines Trophy, the second race on Thursday night, while Dux Scholar runs in the 1,400m handicap that concludes the six-race card.
"I'm expecting a lot from Maritimer," Benzel told The National. "I respect his race record as a two year old. He was not naturally a two-year-old type and what he achieved in that year was quite remarkable.
"What we lost last year he has more than made up for by growing up.
"He is a strong, physical type now and I am expecting a long season from him. We are dealing with a fresh horse now.
"I hope he progresses through the ranks to Dubai World Cup night. Distance is not a problem for him. I think a mile might be a little short but he will get 1,900m and will go as far as he wants.
"We will see how the race goes but I would say that the World Cup would be perfect for him. The distance, the surface, the conditions, although I appreciate it is the hardest race to win on the card."
If the world's most valuable race sounds fanciful, it would be foolish to underestimate Benzel.
Pletcher and Mott do not suffer fools gladly and neither does Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic, who owns most of Benzel's string in Dubai.
Alongside his long-term girlfriend Holli Straight, Benzel also trains Mikhail Glinka, last season's Dubai City Of Gold victor, and Dorian Crown.
Benzel will add to his select band next month with the arrival of August Rush, currently in France with Pascal Barry, the Dubai World Cup-winning trainer.
Bred in South Africa the seven year old was third to subsequent Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor in last season's Mahab Al Shimaal before his front-running style was unsuited to the Al Quoz sprint when fifth to Ortensia.
"I've just passed the two-week mark here. It is not something that I anticipated but I'm really enjoying it," Benzel said.
"When it came to a choice between a winter in New York City or in Dubai, with the weather being what it is, it was an easy decision to make.
"I always wanted to train at the top level. I was really focused on being around the best horses, the best people and to be at the biggest meets.
"Here I am."
Sharestan to lead Bin Suroor's charge
Sharestan bids to confirm the impression he made at Meydan Racecourse three weeks ago by winning the Al Rashidiya at the Dubai track on Thursday night.
The five year old is one of three horses in the 10-runner line-up representing Saeed bin Suroor, the Godolphin trainer who has won the 1,800m contest four times since it was first run in 2000.
Do It All, who is already a proven Group 2 winner having won the Zabeel Mile last season, and Aesop's Fables, yet another to roll off the French trainer Andre Fabre's production line, join their stablemate.
"They are three nice horses," said Bin Suroor. "Sharestan obviously has the advantage of that run when he really pleased us and he has been in great form since. His last piece of work was very good and we hope he is improving.
"This will be a first start for us with Aesop's Fables and we like him a lot.
"His work has been good and we are looking forward to getting him on the track, while Do It All will probably need this run."
On his first run for Bin Suroor, Sharestan, the son of Shamardal, Godolphin's French Derby winner, recorded his third consecutive victory by breaking the track record under Silvestre De Sousa in the main trial for tonight's Group 2 contest.
That Sharestan was not the only thoroughbred to break a record on the opening night of this season's Dubai World Cup Carnival highlights the part played by Meydan's turf, but there was no doubting that Godolphin were wise to recruit the horse from John Oxx's yard last summer.
De Sousa was adamant afterwards that the horse would improve and Mike De Kock, another four-time winner of the race, could well be outgunned with The Apache as his sole representative.
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