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Brave third for Benbatl in Saudi Cup


Benbatl produced a performance full of courage when coming home third in the inaugural Saudi Cup at Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, 29 February.

The six-year-old, encountering dirt for only the second time following an impressive victory in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan, UAE, on Thursday, 6 February, faced plenty of early kickback as he raced in mid-division on the inside of the 14-strong field.

Benbatl was pushed along to maintain his position by Oisin Murphy before progressing to fifth leaving the back straight. The Dubawi entire moved up to third with two and a half furlongs left and stayed on gamely all the way up the straight.

Midnight Bisou passed Benbatl just inside the final furlong but the Saeed bin Suroor-trained runner rallied to regain third on the line from Mucho Gusto and finish two and three-quarter lengths behind the victorious Maximum Security. Tacitus finished fifth as US-trained horses accounted for four of the first five home.

Saeed bin Suroor said: “Benbatl ran an excellent race and I am pleased to see him finish third against some of the best dirt horses in the world. I think that a further trip might be better for Benbatl and we can talk about the Dubai World Cup for him now.”

Oisin Murphy said: “Benbatl jumped smartly but I didn’t have the pace to sit as handy as I would have liked. In saying that, he had an inside trip upsides the winner, and I am thrilled with him. Benbatl normally travels really well in any race and, to be off the bit the whole way is testament to the speed of the US horses.”

Earlier on the same card, Mubtasim (James Doyle) and Glorious Journey (William Buick) finished second and third for Charlie Appleby in the 1351 Turf Sprint over just shy of seven furlongs.

Mubtasim was quickly into his stride and narrowly failed to make all as he was collared in the final stride by Dark Power, while Glorious Journey, who was drawn wide in stall 12, flew home in the straight after being held up towards the rear of the 14 runners.

Charlie Appleby said: “Mubtasim ran a great race and we thought that he might have nicked it at one stage. It was still a great effort from him. Glorious Journey suffered because of his draw – William Buick couldn’t get any cover – but he finished well.”

James Doyle added: “Everything went to plan on Mubtasim, bar the result. He flew out of the gates and did what he likes to do, which is bowl along. Unfortunately, we were just pegged back on the line.”

Cross Counter (Charlie Appleby/William Buick) came home fifth under top weight in the Longines Turf Handicap. The 2018 Melbourne Cup hero raced prominently throughout the 15-furlong contest and moved up to second at the top of the straight. He was passed on both sides entering the final furlong before keeping on at the same pace.

Charlie Appleby said: “Cross Counter was coming up against some very good stayers and it is tough to give weight all round. He put up another good run and, all being well, will head back to Dubai now for the G2 Dubai Gold Cup (Saturday, 28 March).”

Three-year-old filly Final Song (Saeed bin Suroor/Harry Bentley) produced another excellent performance on dirt to take third in the mile Saudi Derby. The daughter of Dark Angel, who filled the same position in the Listed UAE 1,000 Guineas at Meydan in January, raced behind the leaders before staying on well to go second a furlong and a half from home.

She kept on but was passed well inside the final half-furlong by Mishriff, going down by four lengths in total behind Full Flat.

Saeed bin Suroor said: “I was pleased with the performance of Final Song. We will probably take her back to Europe now and look for some nice turf races.”