Godolphin’s globe-travelling multiple Group One winner Benbatl has made a sparkling debut on dirt at Meydan to open up some high profile options.
The winner of the 2018 Caulfield Stakes and runner-up to Winx in the Cox Plate, Benbatl put himself in line for the Saudi Cup and World Cup with his victory in the second round of Group Two Al Maktoum Challenge (1800m).
Christophe Soumillon settled Benbatl third before easing him to the lead at the top of the straight.
The six-year-old lengthened to draw clear of Military Law with last year’s World Cup runner-up Gronkowski third.
“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.”
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor said Godolphin head Sheikh Mohammed had been the one to suggest running Bentbatl on the dirt.
“It’s good to see him really travel well and win that easily,” Bin Suroor said.
“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.”
British bookmaker RaceBets reacted by cutting Benbatl to 7-2 from 14-1 for the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup on February 29, and to 4-1 from 14-1 for the Dubai World Cup on March 28.