Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Saudi Cup: Tactics will be key for Godolphin and Benbatl at world's richest race

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor confident of good run at King Abdulaziz Racetrack

Benbatl during the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan. Pawan Singh / The National
Benbatl during the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan. Pawan Singh / The National

Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor believes tactics will be key for Benbatl at the inaugural $20 million (Dh74m) Saudi Cup at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh on Saturday.

The six-year-old Dubawi gelding is drawn in gate three in the 14-runner field with much of the speed on his outside. A stalking type, he will likely take more dirt kickback than he ever has in his career, which includes only one dirt try.

“I would like to see him handy in the race,” Bin Suroor said of the draw and the challenge he would have to overcome in getting hold of a good position early in the race.

“I would like to see him second or third early on. That would be good for him. He has speed and has proven himself on the dirt, winning the Al Maktoum Challenge over 1,900 metres. I think he will run a good race. He’s in good form.”

Benbatl appeared on the racetrack in Riyadh on Friday and had an easy canter around the 2,000m dirt track with fellow Bin Suroor Samba Derby entry Final Song.

“It will be a very important race and we hope he runs well,” Bin Suroor added. “You have seen his results in the past – he always runs well, whether in England, Australia or Dubai or anywhere. He has that Group 1 class like some of our best horses (have had).”

Joining Benbatl to challenge for the richest prize in horse racing are Satish Seemar’s North America and Salem bin Ghadayer’s pair Capezzano and Gronkowski, the 2019 Dubai World Cup runner up.

North America breaks from gate four and Seemar is hoping the eight-year-old can break well and settle in his now familiar front-running ploy.

“If he doesn’t have anything in his way in the first two furlongs, I think he’s OK and will be in good shape,” the Zabeel Stables trainer said.

“Once he gets his momentum going, he’s such a big horse that that’s when his stride becomes dangerous.

He has speed and has proven himself on the dirt

Trainer Bin Suroor

“He is a little overlooked because a lot of people expected him to win last time out, but didn’t know that he injured himself in the race.

“I’m not down or depressed about the loss – he hurt the frog of his hoof and was bleeding – I’m just happy that he’s fine now and training like his old self.

“He’s won all three legs of the Al Maktoum Challenge and Group 1s, 2s and 3s over a mile and up to a mile and a quarter. He’s a special horse to Zabeel and Dubai.”

Gronkowski has been a bit of a disappointment in his two starts this season but stable companion Capezzano was bang on target in his run in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes at Meydan two weeks ago.

“The two weeks is no worry for Capezzano,” Bin Ghadayer said. “Both horses are very fit and we’re going to pray that everything goes well.

“They’re both 100 per cent and are ready to run. We won’t change anything for Capezzano’s style. We will let him break and be happy.

“He has proved he doesn’t need the lead, but he will show speed. Mickael (Barzalona) will ride him with confidence and I’m very happy with his mood, as he can be very tough.

“He travelled really well and was nice and relaxed. I was worried about him because he can be nervous.

“As far as the post, it could wind up being an advantage here on this track with the long run (to the first turn). Hopefully he will break well and the outside will help him have less traffic.

“Gronkowski is doing very well and we finally have him close to where we had him before the Dubai World Cup last year when he was second. His weight is good and he is fit; good muscle and good shape.”

Completing the lineup are Maximum Security, McKinzie, Midnight Bisou, Mucho Gusto, Tacitus, Magic Wand, Chrysoberyl, Gold Dream, Great Scot and Mjjack.

Updated: February 29, 2020 04:30 PM

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