Following an impressive win in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes at the weekend, Benbatl now looks set to be Winks’ biggest competitor in the upcoming Cox Plate.
It was a classy performance from the Saeed Bin Suroor-owned horse, whose finishing time of 2:00.84 was just a half second outside of the course record, which is run over 2000 metres.
In the aftermath of the victory, Bin Suroor was quick to confirm future plans, as they look to be the team that denies Winks a record fourth victory in the Cox Plate in less than two weeks’ time.
"I've had the target of the Cox Plate for him since January when he was still in Dubai," said Bin Suroor, via the Racing Post.
"Benbatl is the best horse we’ve brought out here. He’s got class and speed. But superstar Winx is in the Cox Plate. It’s hard to beat her. She’s the best of the best and I have a lot of respect for her.
"Winks has become the star of the Cox Plate in recent years, having won the race on three occasions on the bounce and remains the overwhelming favourite to claim victory once again this time around.
However, this recent impressive showing from Benbatl adds in a significant challenge, with jockey Pat Cosgrave, who likely won’t run in the Cox Plate with Oisin Murphy preferred, believing Benbatl has what it takes.
The jockey said (Credit Racing Post): "He's a high-class horse, I was surprised he was such a big price and the first and second are two very good horses. It's a hell of a training performance and he was very tough."
He added: "Oisin Murphy picked up the ride since I was last on him in the Dante and I'm here to ride Best Solution in the Caulfield Cup next week. I think the plan is for Oisin to ride him in the Cox Plate."He couldn't make it this week and I was glad I could step in. If Oisin isn't here for the Cox Plate, I will be."
At present, Winx is still the heavy odds-on favourite at 1/4, with Benbatl’s performance at the weekend being enough only to shorten his odds to 8/1 for victory.