Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor plans to be double-handed in the Juddmonte International Stakes, with Thunder Snow and Benbatl lined up to appear at York next Wednesday (August 22).
Thunder Snow will be having his first run in almost five months after a brilliant start to the year that included an emphatic victory in the Dubai World Cup.
Benbatl was also successful at Meydan on World Cup night, triumphing in the G1 Dubai Turf. The 4-year-old Dubawi colt has since been campaigned in Europe and won a G1 in Munich last month.
Bin Suroor, said, “They are ready but will have a last piece of work tomorrow – just to blow out before the race. But so far I am happy with them. I know the race is going to be very tough – the best quality horses are going to run. But both of them are doing well.”
The race is part of the Qipco-backed British Champions Series and will see jockey Christophe Soumillion renew acquaintance with Thunder Snow. But bin Suroor explained how the £1 million York showpiece will be the first of three intended races for the Helmet colt.
He added: “His last race was the Dubai World Cup and we made a decision with Sheikh Mohammed just to give him a break – because he’d had four races in Dubai.
“Since the horse came to Newmarket, he’s doing well and working nicely. Oisin Murphy rode him last week – on the Limekilns in Newmarket – and the horse is improving all the time and now he’s fit, but he’ll need the race and will improve for it.
“He needs the race before we take him to America. The target to start with is the [G1] Jockey Club Gold Cup [over a mile and a quarter at Belmont Park on September 29]. After that, we’ll take him to the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Churchill Downs.
“Whatever happens in the Juddmonte will make him fit and ready for the future.”
His top-class displays in Dubai early this year were on dirt, as will be his upcoming U.S. targets. According to bin Suroor, it is his preferred surface, even though he has recorded G1 victories in France on grass over both seven furlongs and a mile.
The trainer explained: “I know he has won two Group 1s in France on turf but on the dirt his action is much better.”
Benbatl will be making his second visit to York, having finished runner-up to Permian over course and distance in the Dante Stakes of 2017.
“The horse has really improved physically this year,” said bin Suroor. “The key for him is that it has got to be good ground, really. He doesn’t like fast ground or soft. He is doing well. Oisin Murphy rode him last week and he worked really nicely.”
In other running plans at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, Bin Suroor intends to send both Prize Money and Game Starter for the now £500,000 Sky Bet Ebor next Saturday, while Natural Scenery is likely to contest the two-mile Sky Bet Handicap on the opening day of the festival.
The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival runs for four days: from Wednesday to Saturday (August 22-25).