Benbatl dazzles on dirt in Round Two of Al Maktoum Challenge
Benbatl produced an exceptional performance on his dirt debut as he powered to a commanding victory in the extended nine-furlong G2 Al Maktoum Challenge - Round 2 at Meydan, UAE, on Thursday, 6 February.
The Saeed bin Suroor-trained six-year-old, a three-time G1 winner on turf, was smartly into his stride under Christophe Soumillon and disputed the early running before settling in third towards the outside of the 10 runners.
Benbatl travelled strongly into the race turning for home and moved up to hit the front with two furlongs left. The Dubawi entire readily kicked clear soon after and was eased near the line to come home two lengths clear of Military Law.
Saeed bin Suroor said: “It was really great to see Benbatl win that easily. Christophe Soumillon is a Champion jockey and won the Dubai World Cup with Thunder Snow. I told him to ride Benbatl with confidence and he was still on the bridle in the last two furlongs. The horse showed his class.
“We know he is a special horse from what he has done on the turf. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed made the decision to run him on the dirt tonight, just to see how he would handle it. It was a good decision from the boss.
“Sometimes you have to give these horses a chance on the dirt. Thunder Snow won two G1s on the turf in France, then he raced on the dirt and is the only horse in Dubai World Cup history to win it twice. Some horses handle both surfaces and luckily Benbatl does.
“We wanted to see him to do what he did tonight, as it is important for the future with a view to the Dubai World Cup (Saturday, 28 March) and other races. Sheikh Mohammed will make a decision about where he runs next.”
Christophe Soumillon said: “Benbatl was the best horse in the field by far on the ratings. It was his first time on the dirt but when horses are really good, they can handle both surfaces. He has good gate speed, which is important for dirt racing, and he cruised the whole way.
“I was bit worried when I got into the back straight because he did not change leg properly. I had to force him twice to stay on his right leg and then when I arrived at the last turn, he stayed on his right leg for 200 metres. Finally, he changed and in the straight I could straightaway feel he was able to run away.
“I did not want him to lead - if I did that, I would have burned a bit of gas at that point. For five or six strides, there was a bit of kickback, but when I pulled him three deep in the back straight, he was really happy there. I was able to leave him there and have a good blow.
“He is like Thunder Snow in that he knows his job really well. Today was a new experience for him but, like all the Champions, he did not disappoint us.”