By Geoffrey Riddle
Thunder Snow firmly entered calculations for the Dubai World Cup on Thursday but Christophe Soumillon hinted that a turf target on March 31st instead might be a better fit.
Thunder Snow smoothly saw off the challenge of North America in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round Two by a neck, although the Belgian jockey was hardly hard on his partner in the 1m 1 1/2f contest.
The Godolphin colt has accumulated a strong portfolio on dirt and is no better than 10-1 to step up half a furlong for the World Cup. He is 14-1 first show with Paddy Power for the Dubai Turf and is entered not only in both races, but the Dubai Sheema Classic and Godolphin Mile.
The son of Helmet has won two Group Ones in France on turf, however, and dropping down to the nine-furlong Dubai Turf, in which fellow Godolphin runner Benbatl and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner World Approval vie for favouritism, could be a realistic option.
“I love him on the turf - on the dirt he doesn’t feel to have the same energy and turn of foot,” Soumillon said.Thunder Snow gets the better of North America at Meydan (PA)
“He has run four times on dirt for three wins and one second so you can’t say it is that bad.”
After pointing out that a mouthwatering clash with Enable and Winx in the Juddmonte International at York in August would be a perfect slot for Thunder Snow Soumillion added: “This year he could become the best horse on the turf [over a mile] in Europe. If nobody was clipping my heels in the Jacques Le Marois he could have won. He got tired in the last 200 metres. That is one of the biggest mile races in Europe.”
The winning margin did not do the performance justice, and Thunder Snow caught North America and Heavy Metal and kept the lead by finishing the final two furlongs in 23.66s. During the early stages he was pushed wide and travelled in total 14 metres further than the runner-up. Soumillion does not believe his mount necessarily has the tactical speed to deal with the Americans on dirt, either.
“It always depends on how he jumps out of the gates and which draw we get,” he said. “If we are on the outside and are four wide it will be very difficult. He does not have the speed to be on the front, as well, so he would have to be handy, perhaps third or fourth. It all depends on who is coming. I am sure he will improve a lot. Saeed has a magical record in that race and I am sure he knows exactly how to prepare the horse to target that race.”
Thunder Snow was victorious in the UAE Derby last season and the Al Maktoum Challenge Round Two has previously been won by subsequent Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad in 2003 and Prince Bishop did the double in successive seasons in 2014 and 2015.
He is clearly in the World Cup mix behind American challengers West Coast, Collected, Forever Unbridled and Gunnevera, but with Godolphin’s Talismanic a possibility, and entered, to switch from turf to dirt options are clearly open.
“Nine and half furlongs is better for him and the further for him will be better,” seven-time Dubai World Cup-winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor said.
“He has improved from his last race and was ready to run tonight.
“When he ran last time in England we gave him a break for three months to prepare him for Dubai racing. Physically we thought he might improve and he looked better than ever.
"We’ll take him to the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge on Super Saturday [March 10] and then Sheikh Mohammed will make the decision.”
Thunder Snow’s half sister Winter Lightning had earlier given Bin Suroor his tenth UAE 1,000 Guineas and is now a contender for the UAE Oaks.Like Thunder Snow Winter Lightning is out of Eastern Joy (PA)
Winter Lightning extended his margin of victory in the Trial over Rayya from a nose to two lengths and is another who could well be campaigned in Europe.
“The way she finished her race I think she can stay nine furlongs in the future,” Bin Suroor said. “The next step for her is the UAE Oaks and keep the options open for her for the UAE Derby.
“She is a big strong filly and can show something this year and the year after. We need to think about the Guineas, the English Guineas, and maybe even the Oaks.”
Jockey Pat Cosgrave agreed that the step up in trip would not be a problem.
“She is just a lovely filly to be involved with and makes my job very easy,” he said.
“She just gets on with things, breaks well, relaxes, travels strongly and quickens when I ask. She is improving and, if connections want, I see no reason why the extra 300m of the Oaks would be a problem.”
My Catch, riddn by Pat Dobbs, landed the Group Three Al Shindagha Sprint.
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