Dubai: How can we ever forget the highlight of 2019 at Meydan racecourse, where history was made when Godolphin’s Thunder Snow became the first horse to win the iconic race twice?
It was perhaps preordained that Thunder Snow would become that epic dual winner, having been painstakingly trained by Saeed Bin Surour to accomplish the dream double in one of the world’s greatest races.
After he had won the race in 2018, Thunder Snow embarked on an international campaign that saw him travel to York, England to contest the Group 1 Juddmonte International, a race in which he lost his left fore and right hind shoes, to finish at the back of the field in a high-class renewal of a race that was won by Roaring Lion.
He would then be shopped stateside where a big-race campaign awaited him in the form of the Jockey Club Stakes at Belmont Park and the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
He was unlucky at Belmont where he finished a neck second to outsider Discreet Lover before he delivered a huge effort when running a competitive third behind the quadruple Grade 1 winner Accelerate and Gunnevera, the 2017 Travers stakes (G1) runner.
Subsequently, he returned to Godolphin stables in Al Quoz, where he was allowed a short break before Bin Surour began to steadily turn the screws on his stable flagbearer in preparation for the 2019 Dubai World Cup. Having had a tough season in 2018, Bin Surour did not ask too much of him during morning trials but just kept monitoring his well-being and nursing him back to race fitness.
By March 9, Super Saturday and the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup, Thunder Snow was given a prep race in the Group 1 Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge. Prior to the race, Bin Surour reported that Thunder Snow was in good order but was not one hundred percent ready for the big day.
He finished 9 1/2 lengths behind the streaking Capezzano, who turned the race into a sprint in the home straight.
However, neither Bin Surour, nor Thunder Snow’s jockey, Christophe Soumillon, were going to lose any sleep over that performance. He was not fully fit and that performance gave them something to aim for as they trained their sights on the big prize in three weeks time.
On the big day, Thunder Snow was sent of as the 4/1 second favourite behind his Al Maktoum Challenge vanquisher, Capezzano, but a totally different scenario rolled out in the $12 million race. It was not Capezzano who would trouble Thunder Snow, but the former American trained Gronkowski, who pushed him to run the race of his life in his bid for history.
As Thunder Snow hit the front inside the final furlong, Oisin Murphy and Gronkowski threw down their challenge and the two horses raced nose-to-nose towards the finish crossing the line in a blur. The camera never lies and Thunder Snow was awarded the race - and his place in the record books.
Meanwhile, Doug Watson was once again the most successful trainer at Meydan together with his stable jockey Pat Dobbs.