Ertijaal kicked off his Dubai Carnival campaign with a third successive victory in the five-furlong turf handicap at Meydan.
The ex-William Haggas-trained seven-year-old has won the event for the past two seasons before eventually going on to contest the Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night, finishing second in 2016 and third last year.
Partnered by Jim Crowley on his return, Ertijaal was in control from the off and despite conceding 11lb to runner-up Hit The Bid – who is trained in Ireland by Darren Bunyan – he kept finding more to run out a cosy winner.
Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: “It’s fantastic to have him back as he is a particular favourite of Sheikh Hamdan and I am sure he will be delighted.
“We’re all delighted to see him back.”
Benbatl led home a Godolphin one-two in the Group Three Singspiel Stakes.
Fifth in the Derby and winner of the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained colt could be spotted travelling supremely well with two furlongs left to run in the nine-furlong heat.
Oisin Murphy did not have to be too hard on him in the closing stages to fend off the late charge of the Charlie Appleby-trained Emotionless.
Bin Suroor said: “He’s doing good, he’s improving all the time. This year we think the Dubai Turf will be the main target for him.”
Appleby, who later hit the mark with D’Bai in the seven-furlong turf handicap, was delighted with Emotionless’ run, telling Meydan’s Twitter account: “We’ll probably head towards the Dubai Millennium Stakes (February 22).”
Thunder Snow was expected to bring up a double for Bin Suroor in the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge but he proved no match for the ex-Mark Johnston-trained Heavy Metal.
Now an eight-year-old, Heavy Metal benefited from an excellent front-running ride from Mickael Barzalona, kicking for home on the turn and stealing a crucial advantage over Thunder Snow, who coasted home for second.
Barzalona and trainer Salem bin Ghadayer were completing a double having earlier struck gold with Frankyfourfingers in the extended nine-furlong handicap on the dirt track.
Michael Carrick and the Manchester United team were on hand to watch the opening night action and the club captain was particularly struck by the Meydan track
He said: “This is an unbelievable place to come and watch racing. As soon as we got here, everyone in the group like was like ‘whoa, this is something pretty special’.
“We’ve been here four days, we trained for the last time today and we’re going home in the morning. We’re just having a relaxing night and there’s no better way to do it.”