Benbatl stamps class on dirt with another superb victory in Dubai World Cup
Godolphin horse shows he can handle new surface as he blows away the opposition at Meydan
Benbatl stamped his class on the dirt surface as he did on the turf with an authoritative victory in the Group Two Al Maktoum Challenge Round-2 in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Thursday.
Racing for the first time in 20 career starts on the dirt, he proved he was a class above the opposition over the 1,900-metre trip by racing away to a magnificent victory.
Indeed, that performance sets the Godolphin horse as a potentially leading candidate for the $12million (Dh44m) race, come on March 28.
Benbatl was also an impressive winner of the Group Two Singspiel Stakes at the Carnival’s second meeting at Meydan on January 9.
Christophe Soumillon was in control on the Saeed bin Suroor-trained six-year-old throughout the 1,900-metre trip and was soon clear on the home stretch to win without much of a challenge from an opposition that included last year’s Dubai World Cup runner-up Gronkowski.
Military Law, winner of the Round-1 of the series, ran another creditable race to finish two lengths down of the winner, while Gronkowski was a further six-and-three-quarter lengths behind in third.
“He was the best horse in the field by far,” Soumillon, who rode Thunder Snow to become the first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cup in the last two years, said.
“For sure, it was the first time on the dirt, but when the horses are really good, they can handle both surfaces.
“He has good gate speed, which is important for dirt racing. He was cruising the whole way.
“I was worried on the back straight, because he didn’t change legs properly – I had to force him twice to stay on his right leg.
“On the last turn, he stayed on his right leg for 200m, so I was little disappointed. Finally, he changed and when I came into the straight, I could feel straight away that he was able to run away and he did quite impressively.”
Earlier, Fore Left trained by Doug O’Neill became the first American runner to win the UAE 2000 Guineas in the 20-year history of the dirt classic for the three-year-old colts.
Ridden by William Buick, the bay son of Twirling Candy made all the running to win from Zabardast and Emblem Storm by a length and-a-quarter and a length respectively.
Coming out of a wide draw from Gate 14 of the 16 runners Buick raced to the front to hug the rails and then go clear of the field.
“It was a huge performance from him today, the [wide] draw and the way he did it,” Buick said.
“Doug O’Neill and his team were very confident that this horse had more speed than any other horse in this race, which he showed, but of course, I had to work hard and it took me a long time to eventually get across.”
Fore Left’s win was also the first Carnival success for trainer O’Neill in five years of trying.
“That was so cool,” he said. “I was absolutely going nuts and I’m so happy for Mr [John Paul] Reddam [owner] and for my whole team.”
The UAE Derby on the World Cup night would be his next target but O’Neill plans to give him another run at the $350,000 Al Bastakiya [on March 7], the Derby Trial.
“This race will do him a world of good,” O’Neill said. “After this, we will see how he comes out. If he’s diving into his feed tub, we may run him one more time [in the Al Bastakiya], but if for any reason he shows fatigue, we’ll wait for the Derby.”
William Buick completed a treble on the night when he won the last two races on Charlie Appleby’s Art Du Val and Beyond Reason.
Updated: February 6, 2020 10:15 PM