Godolphin's star pupil Benbatl will make his much-anticipated first start on dirt in Thursday's Group 2 $450,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. While this experiment may have happened sooner had now-retired stablemate and two-time Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow not existed, its timing is no less potent, as the son of leading local dirt sire Dubawi (and grandson of Dubai World Cup winner Dubai Millennium) appears in career form following a dominant comeback in January's Singspiel (G2) over a grassy nine furlongs.
“He's in good form and worked really well last Thursday,” Bin Suroor said. “This is a test for him to see if he can handle the dirt and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed made the decision to run him and see if he's going to like the dirt. He works very well on the all-weather Tapeta at Al Quoz (training centre), but that is Tapeta. On Thursday, it'll be his first time on dirt, so we will see.”
Bin Suroor has won an incredible 11 of 26 editions of Round 2, including with subsequent Dubai World Cup winners Thunder Snow and Moon Ballad—the latter a G2-winning turf horse who won three of his five dirt tries. Still, the proverbial dice have never been rolled with such high stakes, as Benbatl is a 125-rated Group 1 winner on three continents and earner of $5,445,731.
“He needed the (Singspiel) and has improved from the race,” Bin Suroor continued. “That race was just to get him fit and he is ready to try the dirt. There's no excuse now that he's had a run and is fit. He's an easy horse to train; a proper horse who has won in England, Germany, Australia and Dubai. Just a class horse.”
Another high-profile Godolphin-Bin Suroor runner on Thursday in Group company will be Laser Show, a rather unexposed sort who stamped himself as one to watch with a romp in the $100,000 Al Bastakiya Trial over 1900m on Jan. 23. The son of New Approach heads to the Group 3 $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) with only four starts, including a win at first asking at Sandown over 1400m and a second at Kempton on the all-weather over 1600m. He kicked off this year with a non-performance, finishing 14th of 16 in the $100,000 UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, but has moved forward emphatically with the addition of blinkers.
“He is a good horse, but he needs a farther trip,” Bin Suroor explained. “He needs at least nine furlongs and this time we'll run him the shorter mile trip and give him a chance now that he has the visor. The visor really helped him and I know he can run farther in the (Al Bastakiya Trial and UAE Derby).”
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