Benbatl digs deep to regain Joel Stakes title

Benbatl returned to winning form with a gutsy success in the Unibet “You’re On” Joel Stakes at Newmarket.

Saeed bin Suroor’s popular seven-year-old had not got his head in front since winning a Meydan Group Two in February 2020, although he had been limited to just three runs in the intervening period – including when just edged out by Kameko in this mile contest last year.

Partnered by Oisin Murphy, Benbatl was settled in second as Pogo set a testing pace up front, with the front-runner coming up the stands side while Benbatl stayed a little wider in the middle of the track.

Pogo looked to have stolen the advantage at one point. But when Murphy gave the signal, 13-8 chance Benbatl hit top gear to edge in front a furlong out and eventually prevail by three-quarters of a length in a new track record time.

Pogo kept on gamely for second – with 11-8 favourite Master Of The Seas, sporting the first colours of Godolphin while Benbatl was in the second-string silks, staying on for third.

Benbatl, who was winning the race for a second time after also triumphing in 2019, is now 10-1 from 16s for next month’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot with Paddy Power – while the same firm go 12-1 about his Champion Stakes chance and make him a 5-1 shot from 8s for next year’s Dubai World Cup at Meydan.

Oisin Murphy celebrates after Benbatl's win
Oisin Murphy celebrates after Benbatl’s win (Mike Egerton/PA)

Murphy hailed Benbatl as “the horse of a lifetime” after winning a seventh race on the Dubawi entire, with the duo’s first success having come in the 2017 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He said: “He’s been a machine for a number of years.

“He gave me my first ever Royal Ascot winner. We’re in 2021 now – four years later – and he’s still winning Group Twos.

“He is the horse of a lifetime. When he won this race in 2019 he ran to a rating of 125.

“He’s one of the best horses I’ve ridden, and I’m thrilled that we’ve got him back on track. They’ve done a super job at the stable to produce him year in, year out.

“Outside of Andrew Balding, Saeed is probably my biggest supporter. Winning these black-type races is what it’s all about.”

Benbatl on his way to victory
Benbatl on his way to victory (Mike Egerton/PA)

Bin Suroor felt Benbatl was unlucky not to win on his seasonal bow in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood last month, but was thrilled to see him back in the winner’s enclosure.

He said: “He’s a tough horse that always tries his best. He’s won this race twice now and has won big races in Germany, Australia, Dubai and England.

“He is the horse that is leading the stable. We follow him really! We have had a lot of fun with him.

“He missed the break at Goodwood. I spoke to Oisin immediately after the race and he said ‘if I hadn’t missed the break, I would have won’.

“We’ll keep the options open for him. It could be Champions Day, but we’ll talk to Sheikh Mohammed and make a plan for him.

“It could be the Breeders’ Cup, we’ll see.”

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.