One season after cruising through a front-end victory in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), Godolphin's Thunder Snow faced several hurdles ahead of this year's renewal of the $12 million race at Meydan.

None of those hurdles would stop his date with history.

Powering through the stretch while racing outside a determined Gronkowski, the 5-year-old son of Helmet found just enough to prevail in a thrilling edition of the Dubai World Cup March 30, becoming the first horse in the 24-year history of the 2,000-meter (about 1 1/4-mile) race to win it twice.

Flashing a wide smile after guiding Thunder Snow to back-to-back victories in the race, winning jockey Christophe Soumillon delivered a tongue-in-cheek thank you: "I'd like to thank Sheikh Mohammed for putting the post (finish line) right there."

Winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who received a congratulatory phone call from his mother during the post-race press conference, marveled at the history delivered by Thunder Snow.

"I think this is 191 group 1 wins for me worldwide," bin Suroor said. "There are so many group 1s—Dubai Millennium when he won here in 2000. But this is the horse. He's going to be in history for a long time to win the UAE Derby and the World Cup twice."

The prep season didn't go as planned for Thunder Snow, whose training was delayed. He didn't make his seasonal debut until the March 9 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) at Meydan, where he finished second to runaway winner Capezzano, who also started in the World Cup.

But bin Suroor knew Thunder Snow needed that prep race, and when he delivered a workout March 23 similar to his move ahead of last year's Dubai World Cup, the trainer found confidence.

Another challenge arrived at the draw, where Thunder Snow drew post 112 [which would become post 11 with the scratch of K T Brave]. But with his deep confidence in Thunder Snow, Soumillon wasn't bothered, noting the horse at 3 also won the UAE Derby Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) from post 13 and took last year's World Cup from post 10.

"If you look at the last three years, he's always had the worst draw, but he keeps fighting and doing it," Soumillon said. "It's true: On the outside you get less kickback than others. If you can get to the turn second- or third-deep—and not four-, five-, or six-wide—so much the better."

Soumillon also noted the next-to-outside post requires less time in the gate, which he also said is a plus. While his confidence in the horse likely is what provided his bright-side view of post 11, things most assuredly worked out after the gate opened.

In a ride that bin Suroor praised after the race, Soumillon and Thunder Snow were able to engage North America, who, unlike last year, broke well entering the first turn. Thunder Snow also broke well, and he was steadily angled inside in the run to the first turn, where he found himself two wide.

Phoenix Thoroughbreds' Gronkowski raced three wide under Oisin Murphy, and Soumillon and Thunder Snow allowed them to go by out of the turn to challenge North America through the backstretch. Those two dueled through the far turn as Thunder Snow showed interest throughout while drafting behind Gronkowski.

North America faded, and Gronkowski took the lead in the stretch, but Thunder Snow quickly moved into the clear for his run. A furlong from the line, the two hooked up for a memorable duel until Thunder Snow prevailed by a nose. Thunder Snow completed the 2,000 meters in 2:03.87 on a fast track.

Soumillon said the far-turn position allowed his horse a good blow, and when he saw North America come off the bridle, he knew it was down to two horses—sensing no one was coming from behind on this day.

"I knew no one was coming to catch us," Soumillon said. "I was very confident I'd catch him, but I didn't want to hit the lead too soon. … I wanted to get to the front late. Finally, when I hit it, I let him know he had to go a bit further. He just kept fighting.

"It was very hard," Soumillon added of the finish. "I was more looking like a Cheltenham jump jockey in the end than an American-style jockey, but you need to get him going and sometimes you need to do something different. Thanks to Thunder Snow, because without him I would not be able to do such things."

Gronkowski, best known for challenging Justify in last year's Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) before finishing second to the 13th Triple Crown winner, settled for the hard-luck runner-up spot but certainly made an impression with his courageous run.

"He's run a great race. I can't believe he was so close," said Phoenix Thoroughbreds' Amer Abdulaziz. "When you come that far and you get beaten by such a narrow margin, it is so frustrating, but this is also a victory for us. In the end, we were beaten by a better horse, but our horse is a great horse.

"We knew that he was going well. We tried to keep it hush-hush, but he's been working so well at home. (Trainer Salem bin Ghadayer) has done a tremendous job with him, the best of any trainer who has had him so far. When he came here, he had a lot of issues, and we had to build him up from scratch. We had to clear his mind, and he's done it. I can guarantee you this horse will be back here next year, and, hopefully, he can go one better."

Behind the top two, U.S.-based horses picked up third and fourth as Gunnevera, who has now placed in three races with purses of $6 million or more, edging grade 1 winner Pavel for third.

"My horse ran a very, very good race," said Gunnevera's jockey, Emisael Jaramillo. "My position in post 1 was no good, but my horse is a beautiful, beautiful horse. It was a very good finish. He finished so good, even with the position no good. He gave me everything. He tried so hard. He has so much heart. He gave me all. He was excellent."

Pavel finished fourth in the World Cup a second straight year and was followed by 2018 Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) winner Audible and Yoshida, a grade 1 winner on dirt and turf. North America faded to seventh, and U.S.-based Seeking the Soul was eighth in the field of 12.

The narrow victory gave Godolphin wins in half of the eight Thoroughbred races offered on the card as Cross Counter won the Dubai Gold Cup Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors (G2), Blue Point scored in the Al Quoz Sprint Sponsored by Azizi Developments (G1), and Old Persian won the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). The other three winners are trained by Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick aboard.

A group 1 winner in each of his four seasons of racing, Thunder Snow has won eight of 23 starts with 10 other placings for earnings of $16,406,337. He has registered top-level wins on turf and dirt.

 

 

 

www.bloodhorse.com