Dubai: Saeed Bin Surour, Godolphin’s veteran handler, knows a thing or two about the art of turning defeat into victory as he showed after watching his stable star, Benbatl, go down to Australian wonder mare Winx, in the Australian $5 million (Dh13 million) Cox Plate (Group 1) at Moonee Valley, on Saturday.
Winx stamped herself as one of the greatest racehorses in history when recording her 29th consecutive victory, and 22nd at Group 1 level.
Benbatl, meaning “ready for battle” in Arabic, ran a big race to finish just two lengths adrift of Winx, but Bin Surour acknowledged that the winner was “very special.”
“We took out chances but we beaten by a better filly,” the accomplished Emirati trainer said in Australia. “I’m very happy for the race, the owners, the jockey. Winx is a superstar, the best of the best.
“Like I said before the race, the ground may not suit Benbatl, but no excuses, Winx is something special,” he added.
Godolphin, the racing stable created by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has it headquarters in Dubai but also operates two racing stables in Newmarket in the UK, two in Sydney and one in Melbourne, Australia.
For the time being, Bin Surour is based in Australia for the Spring Carnival and will also saddle Best Solution in next week’s Melbourne Cup (G1), a race that has been long pursed by Godolphin.
He also revealed that returning for next year’s Cox Plate with Benbatl will always be an option. “He’s in good shape and we’ll take him back to Dubai and talk to Shaikh Mohammad and he’ll make a decision for the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, jockey Oisin Murphy, who has been associated with most of Benbatl’s major wins in Dubai, England and Germany, echoed Bin Surour’s comments on Winx: “It was a big run and we’ve met a champion in Winx and she was very impressive today.
“Full credit to her team, her owners and Hugh Bowman.”
Before Saturday’s Cox Plate there were questions being asked about the Australian mare ability against international opposition, but she proved her greatness with a scintillating performance that saw her not break a sweat in coasting to victory.
Victory at Moonee Valley also made her the greatest money-winner in racing history with earnings close to A$23 million.
In a repeat of 2017, Darley stallions, the stud owned by Shaikh Mohammad, sired the first three home in the Cox Plate with Winx (Street Cry), Benbatl (Dubawi) with Humidor (Teofilo).
The other Godolphin runner, Avilius, finished fourth.
Winning trainer Chris Waller also described Winx’s victory as being special. “It’s pretty special. I can’t say much more, I’m gassed. Lucky the horse has got more petrol than me,” Waller said.
“To see her unleash as she does, I was looking for Humidor to be coming off her back, but she had them covered a long way from home.”
Jockey Hugh Bowman acknowledged that for the first time he felt more pressure on Saturday than in any of Winx’s previous 38 runs.
“I’ve really felt it this week, more than I have before,” he said.
“The electricity that came through my body turning into the home straight was something I didn’t just get to feel but hopefully everybody else watching. I’m lost for words. Everybody watching her gets so much pleasure from her, out of her superb ability.”