Saeed bin Suroor is looking forward to seeing his stable star Benbatl make his return from almost a year on the sidelines in the Shadwell Joel Stakes at Newmarket on Friday.
The five-year-old won three times at Group One level in 2018 – running out a brilliant winner of the Dubai Turf at Meydan in late March before landing the Grosser Dallmayr Preis in Germany in July and the Ladbrokes Stakes in Australia in October.
Benbatl has not been seen in competitive action since chasing home Winx when the wonder-mare claimed an historic fourth victory in the Cox Plate later in the same month, but is reported to be in good shape for his Group Two return on the Rowley Mile.
“It is his first start of the year. But he is in good condition, and we are looking forward to seeing him run,” said Newmarket trainer bin Suroor.
“His work has been good, and he always shows his class in the mornings. His last piece of work on the Watered Gallop on Racecourse side was very good, and we are very happy.
“A mile is a good trip for his first run, and we will see how we go. I think he will need this race, but I’m hoping for a good run.
“I want to see how he runs and he comes out of the race before making any plans, but options are open for him at Group One level.”
Benbatl faces a far from straightforward task on his comeback, with the John Gosden-trained King Of Comedy setting a high standard on this season’s form.
The son of Kingman looked every inch a top-class colt in the making when winning at Sandown in the spring – and he was only narrowly denied by Circus Maximus when a fast-finishing second in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
He was last seen finishing a close-up fourth in the Juddmonte International at York, and connections are hoping he can make the most of having his sights lowered a shade.
Hugo Lascelles, racing manager to King Of Comedy’s owner-breeder Lady Bamford, said: “We hope it’s a good opportunity for him. He’s working well, and John is happy with him going into the race.
“He put up a decent performance at York, and the stiff mile at Newmarket should suit him well.
“We’re hopeful, but there are one or two good horses up against him, so it won’t be a walkover, that’s for sure.
“He hasn’t won a Group race yet, so we’ll take it one step at a time, but if all goes well on Friday we hope he will then head back to Ascot for the QEII.”
The unbeaten UAE Jewel is already a dual course-and-distance winner – making a hugely impressive debut in the Wood Ditton at the Craven meeting in April before following up in the Listed Newmarket Stakes on Guineas weekend.
Roger Varian’s charge tests the water at Group Two level on his return to action.
Varian said: “It looks like a strong renewal of the Joel Stakes, but the timing of the race fits well for UAE Jewel, and it should be a good starting point to get his career back on track.
“I was in two minds about running him over this mile trip or waiting for something over a mile and a quarter – and he would not want too much more rain, because he is a fast-ground horse.
“He had a setback when we were preparing him for the Prix du Jockey Club back in the spring, but is ready for a run now.”
Zaaki has won three of his five starts for Sir Michael Stoute this season and bids to add to his tally – while Happy Power (Andrew Balding), Pogo (Charlie Hills) and Anna Nerium (Richard Hannon) complete the line-up.