Benbatl provides early marker at Meydan
The six-year-old from Dubawi showed he was as adept on dirt as he is on turf
Benbatl increased his chances of featuring in the $12 million Dubai World Cup next month with a scinitalling debut on dirt at the Dubai World Cup Carnival on Thursday night.
The six-year-old from Dubawi, owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, showed he was as adept on dirt as he is on turf, by triumphing in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2.
The Godolphin charge, saddled by Saeed bin Suroor, left the pack in his wake under jockey Christophe Soumillon, heading into the home stretch, to win by two lengths over Military Law.
Salem bin Ghadayer's Gronkowski, second to Thunder Snow at last year's Dubai World Cup, finished third.
Meanwhile, two-time sprint stakes champion Fore Left became the earliest-ever American winner at the Carnival when he triumphed in the Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas.
Trained by American Doug O'Neill, the three-year-old colt from Twirling Candy, won by 1.75 lengths over under jockey William Buick, for his fourth victory in nine starts.
Zabardast, saddled by Emirati handler Salem bin Ghadayer, was second while, Emblem Storm, trained by Satish Seemar and ridden by Tadhg O'Shea, came in third.
It was Fore Left's first run over a mile after the sprinter had won the 1100 metres Tremont Stakes at Belmont and the 1300 metres Sunny Slope Stakes at Del Mar last year.
"Doug O'Neill and his team were very confident that this horse had more speed than any other horse in this race, which he showed," said Buick.
"But of course, I had to work hard and it took me a long time to eventually get across. He set good fractions, got a little bit of a breather on the turn and then kicked again. He's just a very game, honest horse who stuck on very well. He's got a lot of speed and stayed the mile," he added.
The 31-year-old Buick, who had won the Dubai World Cup on Prince Bishop in 2015, reckoned that Fore Left's connections will be lining him up for the $2.5 million Group 2 UAE Derby.
"I guess they'll be pointing him to the UAE Derby now, which is another furlong and a half, so we'll see about that. It was a huge performance from the horse to get where he did, from where he did and in the manner he did. He got there within himself and put himself in a position after three furlongs to control the race, but it took a good horse to do it and that's what he is," added Buick, who had won the Epsom Derby in 2018 on Masar.
Trainer O'Neill hinted that Fore Left may have another run perhaps on Super Saturday on March 7.
"After this, we will see how he comes out. If he's diving into his feed tub, we may run him one more time in the Al Bastakiya. But if for any reason he shows fatigue, we'll wait for the Derby. Dubai has made it so easy for us to relax and enjoy this and I'm a big believer that horses are a reflection of the people around them and this has been a great experience," he explained.
Earlier, Mike de Kock's Bella Fever won a dramatic Meydan Classic Trial, the opening race of the evening. Woven, trained by David Simcock, landed a thrilling Yahsat Trophy (Div 1). Rusumaat clinched the Dubai Sprint.
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