For the better part of the last year, Godolphin’s Thunder Snow was mostly known as the horse who did his best bucking bronco impression shortly after the start of the 2017 Kentucky Derby (GI), but all that changed on Saturday as the Saeed bin Suroor-trained son of Helmet left his bucking ways behind and captured the 23rd running of the $10 million Dubai World Cup (GI) at Meydan Racecourse. Under jockey Christophe Soumillon, the handsome bay romped home by 5 ¾ lengths over the favored West Coast.
The final time of 2:01.38 also established the track record for the about 1 ¼-mile (2,000 meters) distance at Meydan.
After the break, Soumillon was easily able to hustle Thunder Snow toward the early lead after expected pacesetter North America got off flat-footed and, after battling briefly with West Coast for command, showed the way through pedestrian splits of :25.73, :50.43, and 1:13.89 for three-quarters of a mile. He was still full of run as he rounded the far bend, while his nine rivals behind were struggling to keep up. And under little more than a hand ride, Thunder Snow cruised to the dominant victory.
“When I came in the straight I could feel nobody was following me,” Soumillon said. “I knew I had to concentrate because when he sees the big screen, he can do something sometimes.
“Saeed gave me lot of confidence before the race. I wasn’t ready to ride him that positively and I thought there would be more speed on the inside. He jumped so well that I thought I would have to make it. The first time I rode him I thought that, when he leads, no one can beat him, but it is difficult to make it.
“However, it wasn’t that difficult in the end. Saeed did a great job and the horse made everything — it makes the jockey’s life so easy when ride you great horses. I’m in heaven now, I’m not sure exactly what’s going on but we’re going to have a big party tonight.”
Following West Coast under the wire by a neck was fellow Baffert trainee Mubtaahij, Pavel, the mare Forever Unbridled, Awardee, Furia Cruzada, Gunnevera, Talismanic and North America.
According to jockey Mike Smith, Forever Unbridled probably just got a bit tired after not having run since her win in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) at Del Mar.
“The speed was just gone today,” Smith said. “She got away scrambling a little bit, but she recovered and made some good progress. But then they just left us. She hadn’t run in about four months and she was a little tired.”
Thunder Snow, who won last year’s UAE Derby (GII) and Prix Jean Prat (GIT), and who is also multiple Grade 1-placed, prepped for the Dubai World Cup over the Meydan main track, winning one round of the Maktoum Challenge Races and finishing second in the other two. At Meydan, he’s won four of six starts, with two seconds.
According to bin Suroor, who saddled his eighth Dubai World Cup winner, Thunder Snow will now get a brief break and then target the bigger events in Europe this summer, though he may return to the United States.
“(The only thing) on my mind was to win the World Cup,” bin Suroor said. “Now we won the race, so we’ll give him a break and keep the options open for European racing, or maybe we’ll take him to America.
“We’ll keep him fresh for the second half of the season. We’ll try to find a race for him in America. We’d love to go back.”
Four-year-old Thunder Snow, who is out of the unraced Dubai Destination mare Eastern Joy, was bred in Ireland by owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Darley. He has so far won seven of 18 starts and with the $6 million winner’s share of the Dubai World Cup purse, brought his total earnings to $8,381,476.