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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Caulfield a crucial step as Bin Suroor aims to prime Benbatl for Winx clash

Benbatl: bidding for a third career Group 1 in a third different country
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Saeed Bin Suroor's mission, and he has chosen to accept it, is to become the least popular man in Australian racing. He is trying to deny Winx a fourth Cox Plate and bring to an end her incredible winning streak with his dual Group 1 winner Benbatl.

It is a project that starts on Saturday when Benbatl preps for his showdown with the wondermare on October 27 by bidding for a third success at the highest level in the Ladbrokes Stakes (6.35am BST) at Caulfield.

Full ten-race card for Caulfield Guineas day

Bin Suroor, who also runs Prize Money in the Ladbrokes Herbert Power Stakes – a Group 2 handicap (7.50am BST) – said: "They did their main work in Newmarket before they left for quarantine. They've had a blowout and are ready to go. I'm happy with them and they travelled well, they're in good shape and I'm hoping for a good result.

"We came up with the Cox Plate plan in January, so we'll see how Benbatl gets on Saturday. Winx is a top-class filly. If Benbatl were to win it would be great, but she's the best of the best and if she wins it would still be great.

"He's a two-time Group 1 winner and he has the class to run big races in Australia." 

Bin Suroor is not the only European trainer involved on a stellar day featuring four Group 1s, including the Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas for which the Chris Waller-trained The Autumn Sun is red-hot favourite. A record-breaking 11 international runners are engaged on the card and Bin Suroor's Godolphin teammate Charlie Appleby is also well represented.

Appleby said: "We've got three runners. Jungle Cat steps up to a mile in the Toorak [Group 1 handicap at 5.45am BST] and we've got Blair House. We were pleased with his last run and he's going to step up in trip as well in the Ladbrokes Stakes. We're also running Comicas in the Hussler (2.45am), a seven-furlong Listed race.

"James [Doyle] is riding them. If Blair House won he might be a possible for the Cox Plate, but the ideal plan if he did run well would be to head to the Mackinnon on the Saturday after the Melbourne Cup."

One of this season's underlying themes has been the renewed challenge Godolphin have laid down to Aidan O'Brien, and the Ballydoyle trainer matches the pair for quantity by saddling Intelligence Cross, Spirit Of Valor and Fleet Review in the Group 2 Keno Schillaci Stakes (4.30am BST), Cliffs Of Moher (rebranded The Cliffsofmoher in Australia) in the Ladbrokes Stakes and Yucatan in the Herbert Power.

Cliffs Of Moher: name has changed to The Cliffsofmoher in Australia
O'Brien said of Cliffs Of Moher: "He took the journey there well. We're hoping for a good run and that he will go on to run in the Caulfield Cup the following Saturday."

Of Yucatan, the trainer said: "He's entered for the Melbourne Cup but will need to win this if he's to get into the Cup. The lads with him report him in good form."

And of his trio in the Keno Schillaci Stakes, O'Brien added: "We sent them over to run in a few sprints over the next few weeks. We'll see how they get on but they could run again at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day."

The raiding party is rounded out by Charlie Fellowes, who is hoping Prince Of Arran gets into the Melbourne Cup.

He said: "He's going for the Herbert Power and he's taken the trip really well, he looks a picture. He galloped on Wednesday and that should put him spot on.

"I think the drop back to a mile and a half will be no problem, he's got lots of speed and Caulfield should suit him – it's a nice, flat track and the ground's going to be quick.

"Michael Walker's booked and we'll see how he gets on – we're going there to win. He'd get a kilo penalty for the Melbourne Cup and that would get us up to 25th or so on the nominations list, which would pretty much guarantee us a run."

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He's a two-time Group 1 winner and he has the class to run big races in Australia
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