Exactly one week ahead of the Kentucky Derby (G1), Godolphin announced that UAE Derby (G2) hero Thunder Snow was indeed headed to Churchill Downs.
“Following discussions with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said in the press release, “His Highness made the decision that Thunder Snow is to go for the Kentucky Derby.
“He is a big, strong colt, who is improving all of the time and acts on dirt, and we are looking forward to seeing him take on the best three-year-olds in America.
“The Kentucky Derby is a great race and one of the few major international contests Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin has yet to win.
“Thunder Snow is a colt of the highest class and I hope that he can step up in the Kentucky Derby.”
As observers often point out, horses coming via Dubai in past years have yet to factor in the Derby. According to the Kentucky Derby media guide, Dubai shippers compiled a 12-0-0-0 mark between 2000-16. (That stat includes California-based Outta Here, who ventured for the UAE Derby in 2003 before returning for the Kentucky Derby. It does not include Worldly Manner, who wintered in Dubai for Godolphin but didn’t make his three-year-old debut until the Kentucky Derby.)
Bin Suroor’s personal stat, including Worldly Manner, is 0-for-7. His last attempts came in 2009 with Regal Ransom and Desert Party.
In the interim, Aidan O’Brien sent over three UAE Derby runners from 2011-13. The first of them, Master of Hounds, fared best of any horse last seen in Dubai when finishing fifth to Animal Kingdom.
Next came Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij, an imperious winner of the 2015 UAE Derby but only eighth behind American Pharoah at Churchill Downs. Mubtaahij did better in the Belmont S. (G1), checking in fourth. Japan’s Lani, the 2016 UAE Derby victor, participated in all three jewels of the US Triple Crown and likewise did best when third in the Belmont.
Although Thunder Snow has to defy this overwhelming trend, he does rate as the most accomplished Dubai veteran to take a crack at the Kentucky Derby. His European juvenile form is of the highest order, and he concluded last season with a thunderous display in the Criterium International (G1).
The homebred son of Helmet sports a three-race winning streak, having romped in the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) in his dirt debut before a last-stride score in the UAE Derby that netted him 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby.
Christophe Soumillon, three-for-three aboard Thunder Snow, will maintain the partnership at Churchill. The Belgian ace’s prior Derby experience came with Mubtaahij.
Thunder Snow, currently in Newmarket, is scheduled to touch down in Cincinnati Sunday and van to Louisville. He’ll then spend two days in quarantine at Churchill.
Here’s the video of bin Suroor discussing Thunder Snow’s Kentucky Derby bid, courtesy of Club Godolphin:
— Godolphin (@godolphin) April 29, 2017