March 20, 2019

Benbatl blitzes Dubai Turf field

Benbatl beat the past two winners of the Dubai Turf while coming close to the course record (Photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins)

Godolphin’s Benbatl rebounded from an upset loss to dispatch an international raiding party in Saturday’s $6 million Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan.

So impressive earlier in the Carnival in the course-and-distance Al Rashidiya (G2) and Singspiel (G3), the Saeed bin Suroor colt looked a moral certainty in the Jebel Hatta (G1) on Super Saturday. But a tough post 10, and resulting wide trip, left him vulnerable to the upwardly mobile Blair House. Benbatl’s regular pilot, Oisin Murphy, faulted his ride as well.

Once the plum post 5 came up for him at Wednesday’s draw, Benbatl was entitled to regain the winning thread, and Murphy made sure to have him in the ideal spot. Expected pacesetter Championship did not show enough speed from the rail, leaving the role open until Janoobi pressed ahead. Benbatl was prominent but traveling comfortably alongside Championship.

When Janoobi opened up in hopes of stealing a march on them, Murphy sat chilly for the right moment. The leader was already coming back to the field when Benbatl improved his position virtually on his own, and he was in the process of striking the front when asked in earnest. The son of Dubawi and Grade/Group 1 queen Nahrain quickened right away en route to a 3 1/4-length decision.

Benbatl’s final time of 1:46.02 wasn’t far off the 1:45.52 course record established by Japan’s Just a Way in the 2014 Dubai Turf. Moreover, he had the pleasure of beating the past two Dubai Turf winners. Defending champion Vivlos was a neck up on 2016 hero Real Steel, who dead-heated with Deirdre for third as Japan filled out the minor awards.

There was another 4 3/4-length gap back to Benbatl’s stablemate Promising Run in fifth, with bin Suroor’s other runner, Leshlaa, sixth. Next came the remaining members of Team Japan, Crocosmia and the disappointing Neorealism, who was headstrong under early restraint and soon wilted. War Decree, Jebel Hatta upsetter Blair House, Lancaster Bomber, Janoobi, Trais Fluors, Monarchs Glen, and Championship completed the order of finish.

Benbatl earned his first stakes victory in the Hampton Court (G3) at Royal Ascot, following on a fine fifth in the Derby (G1) and placings in the Dante (G2) and Craven (G3). A creditable fifth behind Enable in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), he didn’t do himself justice on heavy ground in Haydock’s Superior Mile (G3) and called it a season. Benbatl promises a productive European campaign on the heels of his breakout Carnival.

Quotes from Dubai Racing Club

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor: “I thought he was my best chance of a winner on the evening, and am glad to have been proved right by a very good horse. We saw last year that he is a good horse and I am so happy with him. He was weak as a two-year-old so we looked after him and he won his maiden well first time up. He made a good start to his career that day and has kept on progressing. He has won his Group 3 and Group 2 and now he has won his Group 1, which is great to see. He will have a break now and then he will go for the Prince of Wales’s S. (G1) at Royal Ascot.”

Jockey Oisin Murphy: “My trip was very good. The horse was in brilliant condition. I work hard in the mornings and I dream about riding horses like this. To get the opportunity is fantastic. Saeed bin Suroor and his stable have done a good job with this horse. He only started his three-year-old campaign this time last year and he’s come a long way in a short space of time.”

“Last time, I gave the horse a bad ride. He jumped slow last time and the pace was slow so I couldn’t come back and I ended up wide and covered extra ground. It was just very good of Sheikh Mohammed and Saeed for giving me another chance on him. He’s very talented. Today he had a good trip, and he showed his class. I’m living the dream.”

Yasuo Tomomichi, trainer of runner-up Vivlos: “Was a bit slow out of the gate but she raced well in the end and closed well. She ran really well.”

Vivlos’ jockey Cristian Demuro: “The trainer asked me to keep her behind because she can pull too much. She relaxed behind and had a good turn of foot. I’m very happy she’s coming back to form.”

Trainer Yoshito Yahagi on Real Steel, a dead-heat third: “He ran well today. The winner was just too strong, but he ran well.”

Jockey Mickael Barzalona, who rode Real Steel: “He ran well and we had he ran a very good race. I think he still has something in him and should improve next time out.”

Jockey Christophe Lemaire on the other dead-heat third, Deirdre: “I really thought we were going to win as we were going down the stretch since the pace fitted her well but the winner was just too strong.”

Jockey Pat Cosgrave on Promising Run in fifth: “He [sic] ran all the way to the line, I couldn’t fault him.”

Yasunari Iwata, rider of seventh-placer Crocosmia: “She was able to keep her rhythm during the trip and did not give up at all to the finish.  She is improving a lot.”

Jockey Joao Moreira on Neorealism’s eighth: “Unfortunately he was not in his best mind at the jump. He pulled a little bit harder during the race and that caused the finish. He wasn’t able to deliver his best just because of his mental state. He was just too tense.”

Seamie Heffernan, who rode War Decree in ninth: “I had a lovely trip. He’s shows us plenty at home, and he’s disappointed on every other track. But he did show us plenty at home.”

Trainer Aidan O’Brien on War Decree and Lancaster Bomber (11th): “Little bit disappointing. Lancaster Bomber is better than that form. War Decree ran fairly well.”

Jockey William Buick on Blair House’s 10th: “I had to drop him in from a wide draw and he ran OK.”

Jockey Silvestre De Sousa the trailing Championship: “He’s had his problems, but it was a good run.”