Benbatl opened up a number of high-profile options in proving far too good for his rivals with an impressive dirt debut in the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge at Meydan.
A multiple Group One winner on turf for Saeed bin Suroor, Benbatl made a seamless switch to the new surface in the hands of Christophe Soumillon.
Settled in third in the early stages of the extended nine-furlong contest, the Dubawi six-year-old was always travelling sweetly before Soumillon eased to the head of affairs at the top of the straight.
The six-year-old lengthened in style to come home comfortably clear of Military Law, with last year’s World Cup second Gronkowski back in third.
“It’s good to see him really travel well and win that easily. To see the jockey, who rode Thunder Snow to win the last two Dubai World Cups, ride him with confidence and in the last three furlongs he’s still on the bridle shows his class.
“We have always known he’s a special horse on the turf, but Sheikh Mohammed wanted to run him on the dirt to see how he would run and it was a good decision from the boss. Sometimes you just have to give the horses a chance (on the dirt).
“Some can handle both surfaces. He handled it well and Christophe kept him handy in the race, which was the plan for him.
“It was a good decision from the boss and he won it well.”
RaceBets reacted by cutting Bin Suroor’s charge to 7-2 from 14-1 for the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup on February 29, and to 4-1 from 14-1 for the Dubai World Cup (March 28).
William Buick teamed up with American trainer Doug O’Neill to win the UAE 2000 Guineas with Fore Left.
The Twirling Candy colt was tried in Grade One company in the US last year and at one time held Kentucky Derby aspirations, but was not among the favourites for this Group Three heat over a mile.
Bounced out of the stalls by Buick, Fore Left tracked across from his high draw to grab the rail and take command, holding a handy advantage as he turned into the straight.
Although he started to tire a little on the run to the line, his challengers in behind could not reel him back in, with Fore Left claiming a length-and-three-quarters verdict over Zabardast.
O’Neill said: “With the post and the way the race was run with a little bend before the back stretch, he had to work a little extra-hard to get into position, so that was very impressive – but that’s why William is a top jockey. He did exactly what he had to do and didn’t overdo it.
“He got a little tired late, but probably had a lot to do with what I just mentioned and that he had two months off. This race will do him a world of good.
“If he’s diving into his feed tub, we may run him one more time (in the Al Bastakiya on March 7), but if for any reason he shows fatigue, we’ll wait for the UAE Derby (on World Cup night).”
A clearly impressed Buick said: “It was a huge performance from the horse to get where he did, from where he did and in the manner he did.
“He got there within himself and put himself in a position after three furlongs to control the race, but it took a good horse to do it and that’s what he is.”
Ex-Uruguayan runner Bella Fever made a winning debut for Mike de Kock in the Meydan Classic Trial.
The filly was reluctant to load at the start, but certainly made the best of her way home as she swooped inside the final furlong to triumph in the hands of Dane O’Neill, who enjoyed another win later on the card with Rusumaat in the Listed Dubai Sprint.
David Simcock was also on the mark with Woven in the first division of the Yahsat Trophy.