02/01/2018 3:33PM

Benbatl easy winner in Al Rashidiya Stakes

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Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club
Benbatl coasts to a 3 3/4 length win Thursday in the Al Rashidiya Stakes.

Benbatl was a very good 3-year-old last year in Europe, but his star is really rising this winter in Dubai.

Three weeks after an easy win in the Singspiel Stakes at Meydan Racecourse, Benbatl won with even greater ease Thursday in the Group 2, $250,000 Al Rashidiya Stakes. Benbatl got home by 3 3/4 lengths over Bay of Poets, and the sectional timing backed up his visually impressive performance.

According to Trakus, after going his first 400 meters in 27.28, his second in 24.12, and his third in 24.22 while stalking the pacesetters from fourth, Benbatl launched himself into a 21.79-second fourth 400 meters that propelled him to the front, and finished off the job with a final 200 in 11.02. That’s a final 600 meters in a blistering 32.81 seconds, and Benbatl appears to be well on his way to a start in the $6 million Dubai Turf, which is contested at the same 1800-meter distance as the Al Rashidiya.

“I got a nice trip and I was on a very nice horse,” 22-year-old jockey Oisin Murphy said. “He’s got a great kick. Horses like this can make a young jockey’s career.”

Saeed bin Suroor trains Benbatl for Godolphin, which also took second and third with Bay of Poets and Bravo Zolo, both trained by Charlie Appleby. Benbatl, a 4-year-old colt, is by Dubawi and out of the Selkirk mare Nahrain, who won the 2012 Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational by a half-length over Zagora. Benbatl probably was stretched too far in 1 1/2-mile Group 1's last summer, and seems to really have found a niche over a shorter distance and on Meydan’s flat, left-handed course.

Turning was not something Jungle Cat did his first two winters in Dubai, during which he was one of the better 1000- and 1200-meter turf sprinters racing regularly at Meydan. Turf races at those distances are run down a straight course, but on Thursday, Jungle Cat successfully negotiated 1400 meters around a turn to win the Group 2, $250,000 Al Fahidi Fort by three-quarters of a length over Janoobi.

Jungle Cat, breaking from post 6 under James Doyle, sped over to press two-wide as Janoobi went 400 meters in 25.20 (there’s no run-up timing races at Meydan) and 800 in 47.82, by which point Jungle Cat had reached his flank. Jungle Cat laid down a third 400 meters in a fast 22.42 seconds and got his last 200 in 12.01 to win for the fifth time in his career. Jungle Cat, trained by Appleby for Godolphin, was stretched out to 1400-meter races over the summer in England and responded favorably, but he is more likely to turn back to 1200-meter straight-course starts this winter than to try and get a mile.

“We just thought that might be a little far for him,” Doyle said. “His speed was a massive help today. I was able to cross without much trouble. He saw the trip out very well.”

Jungle Cat is a 6-year-old horse by Iffraaj out of the Forest Wildcat mare Mike’s Wildcat, who won the Astoria Stakes at Belmont in 2002 beating the excellent filly Beautiful Pleasure.

South African import Janoobi, trained by Mike de Kock, had been 12th two weeks ago making his Dubai debut in a 1200-meter handicap, and took a massive step forward Thursday.

Boynton was yet another Godolphin winner, beating the well regarded Kimbear in a 1600-meter dirt handicap for horses rated 100 to 115, a race that could have implications for the $1 million Godolphin Mile on the Dubai World Cup card.

Kimbear, an American import, had scored a visually impressive win against lesser competition in his first Dubai start, but on Thursday he gave futile chase to Boynton, who made an early lead and turned back an upper-stretch challenge from Kimbear to win by 2 ¾ lengths.

Ridden by William Buick, Boynton, who carried 3.3 pounds fewer than Kimbear, stopped the timer in 1:36.97 while making his first start on dirt. A Group 2 winner on turf in England as a 2-year-old, 4-year-old Boynton, a gelding, has a dirt-leaning pedigree. He’s by More than Ready and out of the Distorted Humor mare Baffled, whose first foal to race was Constitution, who won the 2014 Florida Derby and the 2015 Donn Handicap, and whose second was Jacaranda, winner of the Grade 2 Tempted.