October 23, 2021

Benbatl mulls Breeders’ Cup after record-setting Joel; Hello You takes WAYI Rockfel

Hello You booked her ticket to the Juvenile Fillies Turf in the Rockfel (Photo by Megan Ridgwell/Newmarket Racecourse)

The Rockfel S. (G2) was the “Win and You’re In” at Newmarket Friday, but the Joel S. (G2) could also have Breeders’ Cup implications after Godolphin veteran Benbatl set a new course record.

Joel (G2)

Seven-year-old warrior Benbatl became the first to win the Joel twice, setting up a possible Breeders’ Cup venture for the Mile (G1) or Classic (G1). The alternative is British Champions Day on Oct. 16, as long as the ground doesn’t turn soft at Ascot.

Under frequent pilot Oisin Murphy, the Saeed bin Suroor globetrotter showed his customary tactical speed to lead in the early going. But when the bold 14-1 shot Pogo wanted to sprint about halfway in the mile affair, the 13-8 Benbatl deferred until re-asserting at a more opportune time.

Meanwhile, his Godolphin colleague from the Charlie Appleby yard, 11-8 favorite Master of the Seas, tried to rally between Benbatl and Pogo. The door was shut, and Master of the Seas had to alter course to the stands’ side rail. Unraced since his near-miss in the 2000 Guineas (G1) here on May 1, Master of the Seas was arguably ring-rusty as he couldn’t gain much late.

Benbatl subdued Pogo by three-quarters of a length in 1:34.56, a new record on the Rowley Mile. The son of Dubawi and Grade/Group 1 queen Nahrain was regaining his Joel title from 2019, having placed third as the defending champion a year ago.

The plucky Pogo held second, a half-length up on Master of the Seas. Laneqash checked in a one-paced fourth, followed by slow-starting Perroto, the enigmatic Accidental Agent, and dual South African Group 1 winner Queen Supreme, who was making her British debut. Conditions were too fast for the withdrawn Sir Busker.

A European champion, and highweight in jurisdictions from England to Germany and the U.A.E., Benbatl has won Group races for five straight seasons. His Group 1 tallies in 2018 came on three continents – the Dubai Turf (G1), Bayerisches Zuchtrennen (G1), and Caulfield S. (G1) – and he placed second to all-time great Winx in that year’s Cox Plate (G1).

Benbatl proved his dirt bona fides in early 2020. After landing the Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) during Meydan’s Dubai Carnival, he was a hard-trying third to U.S. champions Maximum Security and Midnight Bisou in the inaugural Saudi Cup. Unfortunately, his hopes of starring in the Dubai World Cup (G1) were wiped out by the COVID-19 cancellation. He’s raced only twice in the interim.

After his third in the 2020 Joel, the bay resurfaced from an 11-month layoff to finish an agonizing runner-up in the Aug. 28 Celebration Mile (G2) at Goodwood, where a slow start contributed to his narrow reverse. His Joel rebound improved his scorecard to 24-11-4-3, with earnings approaching the $8 million mark.

Murphy rhapsodized about Benbatl in postrace quotes on Godolphin.com:

“Benbatl is the most beautiful horse with an incredible temperament, and I love him to bits. He is everything that a good racehorse should be and he has been around for years. I can’t say how lucky I am to ride these sort of horses.

“I thought that he would take a bit of stopping if he broke cleanly and was allowed to do his own thing, even at his age. He has been a marvellous servant and at the top level since 2017. It’s very rare in Flat racing that we get the opportunity to watch a horse develop year on year.

“The first furlong wasn’t overly quick but then Benbatl had Pogo in the corner of his eye and he was rather generous through the race, without being keen. He traveled wonderfully and this track suits him well. You get him organized and he can finish up the hill. He’s a star.”

Bin Suroor was celebrating a double on the card. Earlier, another Godolphin homebred by Dubawi, Soft Whisper, made a winning return in the Rosemary S. over the same Rowley Mile.

Last seen trailing in the Mar. 27 UAE Derby (G2) and exiting with an injury, Soft Whisper posted a front-running victory with Frankie Dettori in 1:34.89. The Dubai Carnival is on her agenda again. Although Soft Whisper burst onto the scene with visually impressive wins on the Meydan dirt, notably the Jan. 28 UAE 1000 Guineas, her logical 2022 targets are on turf in the Cape Verdi (G2) and Balanchine (G2).

Rockfel (G2)

Amo Racing’s Hello You was one of the spring’s flashy debut winners, but the well-bred daughter of Invincible Spirit had been unable to build upon that effort in four stakes attempts. At last in the Rockfel, however, the 7-1 chance put it all together to book her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

In contrast, 9-4 favorite Majestic Glory took a backward step after her career high in the Aug. 7 Sweet Solera (G3). Given a hefty compliment by Sweet Solera runner-up Wild Beauty, who ran away with last Sunday’s Natalma (G1), Majestic Glory blew the start in the Rockfel and found it difficult to make an impression. According to the stewards’ report, trainer Andrew Balding’s representative reported that the ground was unsuitably quick.

Conditions were right for Hello You, who learned the lesson of rating kindly just off the leaders. Up front, Oscula took charge from her George Boughey stablemate, Cachet, and the duo kept going too well for nearly all of their rivals. Hello You was the exception as she pounced for jockey Rossa Ryan and forged 1 1/2 lengths clear.

Cachet wore down Oscula by a half-length for runner-up honors. Next came Jumbly, Girl on Film, Majestic Glory, Romantic Time, Sunstrike, and Femme Friendly. Kawida was scratched on account of the ground.

Hello You, who sped seven furlongs in 1:23.12, is expected to try her luck at Del Mar.

“Today was the plan and we got the job done,” trainer David Loughnane told Newmarket publicity.

“I know Kia (Joorabchian, owner) is very keen to potentially take a crack at the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf at Del Mar at the Breeders’ Cup in November. 

“We’ve always felt she would be better over the mile going forward anyway, and she just outstayed them today. She galloped, she traveled and she settled beautifully through the race.”

Hello You’s early tractability was the key. Initially trained by Ralph Beckett, the bay romped from off the pace in her May 24 unveiling on the Wolverhampton Tapeta. A more forward trip on heavy going at Royal Ascot resulted in a second in the June 18 Albany (G3), and she was rank en route to a third in the July 9 Duchess of Cambridge (G2).

Then Hello You switched to Loughane, who added a hood. In her ensuing starts, she was sixth in the Aug. 19 Lowther (G2) at York and a troubled fourth in the Aug. 28 Prestige (G3) at Goodwood.

“She overraced for the first half of the race in York,” Loughane observed, “and she settled better at Goodwood, and today she has traveled like a dream. I couldn’t be happier with the way she traveled.”

Irish-bred Hello You advanced her record to 6-2-1-1. Out of the Pivotal mare Lucrece, she is a three-quarter sister to Group 1-winning sprinter Signs of Blessing.

Princess Royal (G3)

Irish trainer Jessica Harrington’s rich form continued with Forbearance’s plundering the Princess Royal (G3). Following the withdrawal of top-rated Albaflora, who prefers more give in the ground, Forbearance rolled from last to first for Shane Foley.

Sayyida, the Appleby-trained 3-1 favorite, settled for second another 2 1/2 lengths astern. Sea La Rosa was a similar margin back in third, and pacesetter Mystery Angel wound up fourth in the eight-distaffer field.

The 4-1 Forbearance clocked 1 1/2 miles in 2:27.91, faster than the gelding Without a Fight’s wire job in 2:28.24 later in the Godolphin S. In the form of her life at present, the Newtown Anner Stud Farm runner earned her first stakes score in the Aug. 19 Galtres S. at York and finished third in a three-way tussle in the Sept. 11 Paddy Power (G3)  during Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown. The daughter of Galileo and Australian Group 1 vixen Nechita sports a 9-4-0-3 mark.