BENBATL(R) EDGES BLAIR HOUSE
Melbourne – It’s on! A real challenger to Australian super mare Winx in the Cox Plate in a fortnight has emerged.
Trainer Saeed Bin Suroor brought Benbatl to Australia to take on Winx and that is exactly what he will do after getting the better of Charlie Appleby’s Blair House in a thrilling Group 1 Ladbrokes Stakes at Caulfield racecourse on Saturday.
The two Godolphin runners forged clear up the straight, with Pat Cosgrave leading the way from the box seat on his first ever ride at Caulfield.
But James Doyle followed him through and gradually drew alongside. For most of the final 200m there was no more than a head in it, with Benbatl just holding on.
Cosgrave said: “Benbatl’s a high-class horse, I was surprised he was such a big price and the first and second are two very good horses. It’s a hell of a training performance and he was very tough.”
It did not take long for talk to turn to the Cox Plate and a credible challenge to Australian racing’s darling.
“I’ve had the target of the Cox Plate for him since January when he was still in Dubai,” said Bin Suroor.
“Benbatl is the best horse we’ve brought out here. He’s got class and speed. But superstar Winx is in the Cox Plate. It’s hard to beat her. She’s the best of the best and I have a lot of respect for her.”
There could be a different man in the saddle on the big day as Cosgrave added: “I’m here to ride Best Solution in the Caulfield Cup next week. I think the plan is for Oisin Murphy to ride him in the Cox Plate. He couldn’t make it this week and I was glad I could step in.”
He jokingly added: “Winx is a great mare. I probably don’t want the ride as if he did win I’d probably be escorted out the country pretty quick.
“It’s going to be a fascinating race and I’d say he’ll need to come forward from today as he lacked a bit of sharpness, but the ground was probably a little bit fast for him. He’d appreciate a bit more give, but he’ll have to be on his A-game that’s for sure.”
It was not just Godolphin who had a good Caulfield Guineas day, as Irish master trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Yucatan did not so much announce his Melbourne Cup claims as bellow them for all to hear.
Do not let the 1.25-length margin in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes fool you, this was a rout. He was a good six lengths clear turning in and maintained that margin until the 50m mark, when he was heavily eased down by James McDonald.
Bookmakers reacted by slashing Yucatan to a best-priced 12-1 (from 50) and challenging for favouritism for the Melbourne Cup on 6 November. – www.racingpost.com