Saeed bin Suroor would love to see his stable star Benbatl register a first Group One success on British soil in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
The five-year-old won top-level prizes in Dubai, Germany and Australia in 2018 – before rounding off his campaign by chasing home the all-conquering mare Winx when she made history with a fourth victory in the Cox Plate.
Despite an 11-month absence, Benbatl looked better than ever when running out a hugely-impressive winner of the Joel Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago, and Bin Suroor – bidding for a record sixth QEII success, live on Sky Sports Racing on Saturday – has been delighted with his charge since.
He said: “He worked well last Saturday – he’s in good condition and is ready to run. We are very happy and looking forward to Saturday. He’s a calm horse, who is very easy and straightforward to train.”
The one caveat concerning Benbatl is the prevailing testing conditions at the Berkshire track.
Bin Suroor plans to consult jockey Oisin Murphy after he has ridden James Fanshawe’s The Tin Man in the Qipco British Champions Sprint – which starts the stellar card – before confirming Benbatl’s participation.
“Our jockey will ride in the race (on the straight track) before, and tell us what he thinks,” the trainer added.
“The horse is in good form – he has won Group Ones in Dubai, Germany and Australia, and now he needs to win one in England.”
On the day he will be crowned champion jockey for the first time, Murphy is optimistic that Benbatl can give him further cause for celebration.
He said: “I had a big win in Dubai and a Group One in Germany on him. He had a bit of time off after the Cox Plate – but he bounced back, winning the Joel Stakes by five lengths at Newmarket.
“He’s a very special horse – he’s one of the best horses in the world.
“He’s rated 126, and I invite everyone to look at him at Ascot. He’s out of the ordinary.”
Aidan O’Brien has four victories in the QEII to his name, and this year relies on Magna Grecia.
Winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in early May, the Invincible Spirit colt has not been seen in competitive action since finishing fifth in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh three weeks later.
O’Brien said: “We’re very happy with him, and he’s had plenty of work. He was originally going to run at York (Juddmonte International) and then Leopardstown (Irish Champion Stakes), but we’ve put it off until here.
“We were giving him more time, because other horses kept stepping into his slot, so we’ve given him as much time as we could – but we’re very happy now.
“He had a hamstring injury, but he’s ready to start back now. It just took a long time to settle down.”
Trainer Francis-Henri Graffard expects ante-post gamble The Revenant to revel in the testing ground as he goes in search of a seventh straight victory.
The Dubawi gelding was available at double-figure odds in the aftermath of his latest romp in the Group Two Prix Daniel Wildenstein at ParisLongchamp a fortnight ago, but is now favourite in the hands of Arc-winning jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot.
Graffard has already enjoyed a memorable season, having claimed his first Classic success through French Oaks heroine Channel and a Royal Ascot victory in the Coronation Stakes with Watch Me – and is relishing the opportunity to add a Qipco British Champions Day win to his CV.
“Everything is good, and I am very happy with the horse’s condition,” said the trainer.
“We know the ground will not be a problem for him, and we are looking forward to the race.
“It is a step up – going into a Group One – but we don’t have much option and we are very happy to be running in this race.”
Having landed the last two renewals of the QEII with Persuasive and Roaring Lion respectively, John Gosden saddles King Of Comedy – runner-up to Benbatl in the Joel Stakes.
The Clarehaven handler said: “He ran into a top horse in top form last time out.
“I was very impressed with Benbatl. He won in tremendous style – someone had to be second, and it was us.
“I take nothing from the winner and think he will take all the beating again, but we’re running under somewhat different conditions.
“If we handle that ground, then I think King Of Comedy will run a big race.”
The Richard Hannon-trained King Of Change has run just once since filling the runner-up spot behind Magna Grecia in the Guineas – decisively winning the Fortune Stakes at Sandown last month.
Hannon said: “He’s a lightly-raced colt who runs well fresh. He’s plenty fit enough and in great form.
“Since his very good second in the Guineas, we have deliberately given him a break and prepared him for the autumn.
“He’s a horse for next year, don’t forget that – but if he ran a good race in the QEII, then we would be delighted.
“He’s a big, strong horse – and I think he will deal with the soft ground, no problem.”
Phoenix Of Spain won the Irish 2,000 Guineas for Charlie Hills on his first start of the year, but has been largely disappointing in three subsequent starts.
“I’ve been really pleased with him leading up to the race, and he ran much better in France last time (fifth in Prix du Moulin) when he was doing all his best work late on,” said Hills.
“Benbatl was mighty impressive last time, and there are plenty of other Group One winners in there, but it’s been an open mile division this year -and while it’s competitive, it looks up for grabs.”
Course specialist Lord Glitters represents David O’Meara. The grey landed the Queen Anne at the Royal meeting back in June, and also won the Balmoral Handicap on this card two years ago.
Last year’s Queen Anne winner Accidental Agent, a regular rival of Lord Glitters, also runs – as does Marcus Tregoning’s Mohaather, who has been off the track since winning the Greenham Stakes in April.