where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2020-02-07 06:00:45  
Benbatl shines on dirt debut to open up World Cup night options for Godolphin

Dirt debutant Benbatl oozed class to record a smooth victory under Christophe Soumillon in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R2 at Meydan.

It was a 12th win in the race for trainer Saeed bin Suroor, whose previous winners Moon Ballad and Thunder Snow went on to land the Dubai World Cup.

With the retirement of the latter – the only two-time World Cup winner – Godolphin were seeking a new contender and in Benbatl they appear to have found one.

A three-time Group 1 winner, the six-year-old was always going well before powering clear early in the straight, winning the race in a matter of strides.

Soumillon said: “I was keen to educate him about dirt racing and, apart from having to make him change leads, he's done everything naturally.

“I was always travelling strongly. He seemed happy on the surface and then really quickened when I asked. We knew he was a very good horse and now we know he can handle the dirt so it gives the owners and trainer a lot of exciting options.”

The UAE 2,000 Guineas went to the US with William Buick and Doug O'Neill combining to land the Classic with the impressive Fore Left. Despite being drawn in stall 14 of the 16 runners, Buick was soon able to get to the front on Fore Left and it was apparent the pair would take some catching.

It was a first 2020 carnival winner for O’Neill, who has a sizeable team based at Meydan this year and won the 2007 Godolphin Mile with Spring At Last.

O’Neill was denied a quick double in the following Listed Dubai Sprint when his Blitzkrieg was unable to get past Rusumaat, trained by Musabbeh Al Mheiri for Sheikh Hamdan and completing a double for the owner’s second jockey, Dane O’Neill.

The Meydan Classic Trial was earlier won by O’Neill aboard Bella Fever. It was a welcome winner for South African Mike de Kock, who remains the carnival’s most successful international trainer despite a few quiet seasons.

Woven landed the first division of the 7f turf handicap for trainer David Simcock, shooting up the rail to lead just over a furlong out under Harry Bentley and having enough to deny Godolphin’s Yattwee.

It was just a second career win for Simcock’s runner and a first since September 2018 at York.

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