Benbatl ran on gamely to finish a close second behind Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Permian in the G2 Dante Stakes - the leading trial for the Derby at Epsom Downs - over an extended 10 furlongs at York, UK, on Thursday, May 18.
The Saeed bin Suroor-trained colt raced in second early on before settling third behind two other Godolphin runners, the free-racing Swiss Storm (David Elsworth/Jim Crowley) on the outside and Wolf Country (Charlie Appleby/William Buick) who set a strong gallop for the 10 runners.
Benbatl regained the runner-up spot after entering the straight and quickened up for Pat Cosgrave to press for the lead with over two furlongs remaining.
He held every chance as Wolf Country began to fade soon after and Permian went to the front. Benbatl ran on inside the final furlong to go down by three quarters of a length to Permian, who won in 2m 8.40s on ground described as good to soft, soft in places.
Crystal Ocean came home half a length back in third, with Wolf Country taking fifth as Syphax (Kevin Ryan/Jamie Spencer) and Swiss Storm finished seventh and ninth respectively.
John Ferguson, Chief Executive & Racing Manager of Godolphin, commented: “The great thing about the Dante was that it was a genuinely run race.
“William was keen to make it on Wolf Country, which gave Franny Norton an opportunity to sit in behind on Permian, which he did and his horse relaxed beautifully.
“Wolf Country is going to be a good stayer in time but he didn’t quite have the gas in the last couple of furlongs. Permian finished the race off really well, with Benbatl at his girth the whole way down the straight.
“I am delighted with the first two and I have spoken to Sheikh Mohammed. He is also delighted and very keen that Permian is supplemented for the Epsom Derby (G1, 1m 4f, June 3).
“Saeed (bin Suroor) had Best Solution win the Lingfield Derby Trial and Benbatl finish second today, so he will talk to Sheikh Mohammed about that and see what is the right thing to do for the horses.
“I was thrilled with Benbatl today, sadly he didn’t win but I am delighted with him and I think there are some big days ahead.
“Best Solution and Benbatl are from the same yard and Sheikh Mohammed will like to make the decisions about where they run. Knowing Saeed and the boss, it wouldn’t surprise me if they both ran in the Derby.
“It is great to have a season where we have so many three-year-olds who have a live chance in the Epsom Derby. No doubt, we will find out in time exactly where they stand.”
Saeed bin Suroor commented: “Benbatl has run very well – he was beaten by a horse with more experience. This is only Benbatl’s third race and the Derby is still an option for him and Best Solution.
“We will see – Sheikh Mohammed will make the decisions. Bentbatl will learn more and it looked like he was still keen in the race. He has been keen in the mornings but last time he worked he was more relaxed. I think he still needs to learn more and he will improve.
“Best Solution is very good and came out his Lingfield race really well. I am happy with him and a mile and a half is no problem.
“It looks like a mile and quarter may be the best trip for Benbatl. He needs to relax more in races for a mile and a half. But we will keep the options open for him and see how he comes out of today’s race.
“The horses are running very well and we also have some other Derby entries.”
Pat Cosgrave added: “Benbatl ran a good solid race – it was only his third start and the winner had a bit more experience in the finish.
“But Benbatl has done nothing wrong and I could not fault him in any way. I thought that maybe Permian outstayed him.”