Benbatl on course for Joel return

Benbatl is set to make his reappearance and bid for a repeat victory in the Shadwell Joel Stakes at Newmarket on Friday.

Saeed bin Suroor’s flag bearer has not been seen since finishing a fine third in the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup on dirt in February.

The six-year-old was favourite for the Dubai World Cup off the back of that effort, but Meydan’s showpiece meeting was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic at the 11th hour.

Benbatl was declared for the Celebration Mile at Goodwood last month, but taken out on the morning of the race when the ground turned soft.

“He’ll go for the Joel, he’s working well and he’s in good form – we’ve been waiting for a while to run him,” said Bin Suroor.

“We wanted to go to Goodwood and then there was a race at Haydock, but the ground was heavy. Instead we’ll go to Newmarket for the race he won last year – he won it well.

“We’re looking forward to it and looking to see a good performance from him. The timing is also right for Champions Day, but he will only go there if the ground is suitable.

“We took him last year when it was soft and he didn’t like it. He’s got the option over a mile (QEII) and 10 furlongs (Champion Stakes). We’ll wait and see, we just need to get him started.”

Benbatl is one of 19 horses in the Group Two Joel Stakes at the confirmation stage.

His potential rivals include Andrew Balding’s 2000 Guineas hero Kameko, Mark Johnston’s recent German Group Two winner Dark Vision and the prolific Top Rank from James Tate’s stable.

Just seven juvenile fillies are in contention for the other Group Two on Friday’s card – the Shadwell Rockfel Stakes.

Richard Hannon’s Happy Romance looks ready to step up in class after winning four of her six starts during a tremendous season thus far, while Aidan O’Brien could send Leopardstown scorer Monday across the Irish Sea.

Alba Rose (Johnston), Isabella Giles (Clive Cox), Nazuna (Roger Varian), Prado (Charlie Hills) and Santosha (David Loughnane) complete the potential field.

Alpinista (Sir Mark Prescott), Antonia De Vega (Ralph Beckett) and Franconia (John Gosden) are three of 10 fillies entered for the Group Three Princess Royal Muhaarar Stakes.

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