Benbatl is set for a clash with champion Winx in the Cox Plate after making an immediate impact in Australia with a Group One win in the Caulfield Stakes.
In a driving finish to Saturday’s 2000m weight-for-age race between two international visitors from the global Godolphin operation, the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Benbatl ($9) edged out Charlie Appleby’s Blair House ($12) to win by a half-head.
The pair put a gap on the rest of the star-studded line-up, with multiple Group One winner Humidor ($6) another 2-1/4-lengths away third.
Winx is an odds-on favourite for an unprecedented fourth Cox Plate and has won her past 28 starts.
“He ran a really huge race,” Bin Suroor said.
“He finished really well and that’s given us confidence for two weeks later to run in the Cox Plate.
“That’s the target for him. I’ve had that target for him since January when he was still in Dubai.
“But the superstar Winx is in the race. It’s hard to beat her. She’s the best of the best.
“But our horse is doing well. He’s won three Group Ones now.”
Benbatl’s Group One wins have all come this year in Dubai, Germany and now Melbourne.
Bin Suroor said the race would bring Benbatl on again for the Cox Plate when he would be “spot-on”.
But can Benbatl beat Winx?
“It’s racing,” Bin Suroor said.
“But she’s a superstar. I have a lot of respect for her.”
Jockey Pat Cosgrave flew in to take the ride on Benbatl and was riding at Caulfield for the first time.
Cosgrove claimed his sixth career Group One with two of those being in Germany this year on Benbatl’s stablemate Best Solution, the horse he will ride in next Saturday’s Caulfield Cup 2018.
Oisin Murphy will ride Benbatl in the Cox Plate.
James Doyle said Blair House, who also holds a Cox Plate nomination, ran a super race.
“I ended up in a nice spot from a tricky draw and travelled strong,” Doyle said.
“He was just out-battled by Benbatl. But it was a super run.”