Thunder Snow makes his seasonal bow in today’s Al Maktoum Challenge (R3). Image Credit: Dubai Racing club

Dubai: Godolphin’s Thunder Snow will face a stern test when he returns to action at Meydan Racecourse on Super Saturday where he will take his first step towards the $12 million Dubai World Cup (Group 1), a race that he is making an audacious bid to capture for the second successive year.

No horse has won the 2,000 dirt contest twice since its inception in 1996, but Thunder Snow’s connections are hoping that he can rewrite the history books when the 24th running of the world’s richest race takes place three weeks from now.

He (Thunder Snow) looks to be in good condition. This is a stepping stone towards the Dubai World Cup. He will need this run and I expect him to improve for the race.

- Saeed Bin Surour » Trainer

Having already made history by becoming the first colt to win the UAE Derby (G1) and Dubai World Cup the five-year-old son of Australian sire Helmet takes on nine rivals led by Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Gronkowski, South Korea’s 10-length Meydan scorer Dolkong and the up-and-coming New Trails.

Boasting seven career wins from 21 career starts including 12 at Group 1 level, Thunder Snow will start the 6.55pm showpiece race that highlights the seven-event Dubai World Cup ‘dress rehearsal’ as the heavy international favourite, but his trainer Saeed Bin Surour is not inclined to get carried away despite Thunder Snow’s impressive recent trials at Meydan and Al Quoz.

“I just wanted to give him the opportunity to get a feel of the Meydan dirt,” Bin Surour told Gulf News. “It was pretty much a routine piece of work, but I liked the way he stretched out.

“He hasn’t been in a race situation since the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs (November 3, 2018) where he did well to finish third in a mile and a quarter race that was run like a sprint!”

“He looks to be in good condition at the moment. This is a stepping stone towards the Dubai World Cup. He will need this run and I expect him to improve for the race.”

Favourably drawn in stall two, Thunder Snow is joined another Godolphin hope, the Charlie Appleby-trained Nordic Lights who races on dirt for the first time winning a nine-furlong turf handicap at Meydan a month ago.

While Thunder Snow will be very hard to beat, the rest of the field are quite evenly-matched. He (Nordic Lights) has worked on the dirt at home.

- Charlie Appleby » Trainer

The Epsom Derby (G1) and Melbourne Cup-winning handler said on the Godolphin website: “We were pleased with Nordic Lights on his two appearances so far this year, including an impressive win on his latest start.

“We felt that he might be able to adapt to dirt based on a few things that we have seen from him — he has good gate-speed and travels well in his races.

“While Thunder Snow will be very hard to beat, the rest of the field are quite evenly-matched. He has worked on the dirt at home, which is quite deep, and the sounder surface at Meydan should suit him better.”