Benbatl with Christophe Soumillon Aboard
Photo Credit: Erika Rasmussen
DUBAI (February 6, 2020)—Thursday’s sixth meeting of the 2020 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse, a seven-race $1.38 million card, was highlighted by the Al Maktoum Challenge R2 (G2), UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) and Dubai Sprint (Listed). Otherwise, a trio of handicaps and the conditioned Meydan Classic Trial gave us even deeper glimpses of the kind of star-power in store for the Dubai World Cup meeting in just over seven weeks.
The Group 2 $450,000 Round 2 over 1900m, a key prep for the 2000m $12 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), showed a new dimension for Godolphin’s multiple Group 1 winner Benbatl, who won his dirt debut with style under Christophe Soumillon. Raced prominently in third, just behind the pace set by G1 winner Roman Rosso and upstart Chiefdom, he switched out around the turn, took over while three-wide turning for home and held off fellow Dubawi offspring Military Law by two facile lengths. Gronkowski finished third, another 6¾ lengths astern the runner-up. The final time was 1:56.80, just .13 off Frosted’s 2016 stakes record.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who has twice won this with subsequent Dubai World Cup winners (Moon Ballad and Thunder Snow) was elated. The win was Benbatl’s 10th from 20 starts and added $270,000 to the 6-year-old’s bankroll to eclipse $5.7 million. A Group 1 winner on three continents, he will now point toward the big event in an attempt to give his connections a third consecutive triumph in tandem in the prestigious affair.
“He was the best horse in the field by far,” Soumillon 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.”
“It’s good to see him really travel well and win that easily,” Bin Suroor said. “To see the jockey, who rode Thunder Snow to win the last two Dubai World Cups, ride him with confidence and in the last three furlongs he’s still on the bridle shows his class. We have always known he’s a special horse on the turf, but Sheikh Mohammed wanted to run him on the dirt to see how he would run and it was a good decision from the boss. Sometimes you just have to give the horses a chance (on the dirt). Some can handle both surfaces. He handled it well and Christophe kept him handy in the race, which was the plan for him. He won it well, thank God. It was a good decision.”