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.
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.”
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.”