By Duane Fonseca
Benbatl proved his class on dirt on the first time of asking when handsomely taking the feature Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 on Thursday’s Dubai World Cup Carnival card at Meydan.
The multiple Group One winner claimed the 1800m Group 2 Singspiel Stakes on turf on 9 January and made it two in two for the season Thursday night when winning the Al Maktoum Challenge R2 by two lengths over 1900m on Meydan’s dirt track.
That victory will have answered Godolphin’s questions about who will fly the flag for them in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup on 28 March, with the Saudi Cup on 29 February another option for the 6yo son of Dubawi.
Ridden by Christophe Soumillon, Saeed bin Suroor’s charge settled behind the leaders early on, but after the pace was set he was moved two out from where Soumillon, last year’s Dubai World Cup winning rider with Thunder Snow, felt he was comfortable to go all the way.And 500m out, benbatl kicked clear to win by two lengths from Musabbeh Al Mheiri’s Military Law, with last year’s Dubai World Cup runners up Gronkowski third a further six and three fourths of a lengths behind.
Al Mheiri enjoyed success in the earlier race the Listed 1200m Dubai Sprint over Meydan’s turf chute with Rusumaat who clinched success by a length from Doug O’Neill’s Pat Cosgrave ridden Blitzkrieg, with Simon Crisford’s Roulston Scar taking third a further length and a quarter behind under James Doyle.
O’Neill won the other feature of the night the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas with Fore Left. Ridden by William Buick, the American raider won by a length and three fourths from Salem bin Ghadayer’s Zabardast, the ride of Mickael Barzalona. In third place, a further length in arrears, was Satish Seemar’s Emblem Storm, the ride of Tadhg O’Shea. It was the earliest win by an American trainer in the Carnival programme.
Buick completed a hat-trick, winning the last two races on the card aboard Charlie Appleby trainees Art Du Val and Beyond Reason. First Art Du Val won the 1800m Strata Trophy turf handicap by a short head from Red Cactus, with Epic Hero a length and a quarter behind third. Later, in the Mubadala Div 2 1400m turf handicap, Buick brought Beyond Reason home with a neck to spare from Fawzi Nass’ Laieth, with Tashweeq a solid third for Al Mheiri.
And Buick wasn’t the only rider to sign off with more than one win on the night, that distinction was shared by Dane O’Neill, who won the Meydan Classic Trial over 1400m of turf with Mike de Kock’s Bella Fever and then the Dubai Sprint with Rusumaat.
Trainer David Simcock and rider Harry Bentley combined to land the 1400m Yahsat Trophy (Div 1) turf handicap with Woven.