Thunder Snow – Starting A Storm

Cue Soumillon's nightmare!

In the last sentence of the last news conference after the last race on the Dubai World Cup program, jockey Christophe Soumillon delivered the day’s best line.

“If he goes to Churchill Downs,” Soumillon said, “I will need a blindfold because I will not go in the gate!”

Christophe Soumillon – interesting poser

Soumillon was referring to Thunder Snow, the colt he had just ridden to a decisive, front-running victory in the $10 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup. And ebullient trainer Saeed bin Suroor was talking about taking the 4-year-old Helmet colt back to the United States later in the year.

That jolted Soumillon’s thoughts away from the joy of the moment and back to May of 2017 when Thunder Snow entered the Churchill Downs starting gate as one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby. When the bell rang, he refused to run, bucking and rearing until Soumillon pulled him up just yards from the start. No one has been able to explain the strange behavior. But Soumillon will never forget.

“It’s just an amazing story,” Soumillon said. “I think we have to write a book about him.”

There was no such misbehaviour at Meydan as the Dubai World Cup capped a stellar program that also unveiled an Irish-trained colt as an early favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Thunder Snow jumped right out of the outside, No. 10 gate, shot to the lead before the first turn and was gone. The favorite, Bob Baffert trainee West Coast, gave it his best into the stretch but then Thunder Snow kicked away to win by 5 3/4 lengths. Baffert nailed down second and third with West Coast and 2015 UAE Derby winner Mubtahij.

“I didn’t feel any pressure at any time in the race,” Soumillon said.

Thunder Snow charges home to win the 2018 Dubai World Cup

The Thunder Snow cause was aided greatly when North America, who defeated him in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 in their last start, missed the break badly. North America had been expected to contest the lead and his absence left a clear path for Thunder Snow, who finished the 1 1/4 miles in course-record time of 2:01.38.

“The jockey made the horse win the race,” said bin Suroor, who saddled his eighth Dubai World Cup winner. “I told him, ‘If you can jump and be handy, you have a chance to win the race.'”

Bin Suroor said the plan now is to give Thunder Snow a rest in preparation to “take him to European racing and maybe back to America. There, the likely target would be the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Turf. And this year’s Breeders’ Cup is to be run at Churchill Downs.

Cue Soumillon’s nightmare.

UPI Horse Racing Roundup – Robert Kieckhefer 

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