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Thunder erupts at vibrant Meydan

Bin Suour wins an eighth Dubai World Cup trophy as Mohammad exults in event’s world appeal

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Jockey Christophe Soumillon celebrates on board Thunder Snow after the Saeed Bin Surour-trained horse won the $10m Dubai World Cup at Meydan.
Gulf News

Dubai: A momentous night for Godolphin was confirmed when Thunder Snow took the biggest prize of the night, the $10 million Dubai World Cup (Group 1) at Meydan, with a magnificent performance while establishing a fifth track record of the night.

Ever since he won the UAE Derby (G2) twelve months ago, the Dubai World Cup has always been the principal target for the majestic son of top stallion Dubawi, who is trained by long-serving Godolphin handler.

Thunder Snow, who has endured an up-and-down career that even saw him well-beaten in the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge (G1), the prep race for the World Cup, was at the top of his game on Saturday when delivering one of the most imperious performances under a confident ride by multiple French champion jockey, Christophe Soumillon.

West Coast, the American three-year-old champion from last year and the red-hot favourite to given Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a fourth victory in the race, finished 5 ¾ lengths behind the winner, while former UAE Derby winner, Mubtahij, also trained by Baffert, was third, a close neck behind.

Another American-trained horse, Pavel, finished fourth and Forever Unbridled, who was bidding to make history by becoming the first mare to win the great race, was fifth.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who created the race as the ultimate thoroughbred contest in 1996, watched the race from his favourite position on the standside rails.

“I am happy and proud for two reasons,” Shaikh Mohammad told television cameras. “Proud because we have so many people from around the world, attending our race. And I’m proud of Godolphin’s overall performance on the night, with four winners, capped by Thunder Snow’s victory in the Dubai World Cup.”

Soumillon, who Bin Surour says gets on the horse like a house on fire, exulted in his maiden Dubai World Cup victory.

“It’s just amazing,” said Soumillon. “Was very confident with him, especially with the draw, there was like three or four horses to make the running but to make it is just amazing.”

“For sure this is a moment of my life,” he added.

“I don’t know if it was Shaikh Mohammad’s daughter, a little girl, who told me ‘it is small track, if you go to the front then you are going to win it’,” he added.

“He jumped quite well and I saw nobody try to challenge me and then West Coast let me go and when I arrived at the first corner my horse was [still] in front and I was just cantering.

“He is a very funny horse and very talented. But when he doesn’t want to do it he doesn’t and when he wants, it is just amazing,” said the French ace.

Bin Surour, who was winning an unprecedented eighth Dubai World Cup trophy, was struggling to control his emotions after his latest victory.

“We won two years in a row and now we have come back to win, is a very good result. Brilliant,” he said. “Christophe has done a great job despite being draw in Gate No 10.

“What he has done, nobody has done. To break from the widest gate and get his horse into a good position from where he can launch his bid, is simply superb.

“I’ve won so many big races around the world, but to win the Dubai World Cup, here in Dubai, in front of fellow Emiratis, always gives me a buzz. It’s the greatest feeling in the world and I can never, ever get tired of it.”

Meanwhile, locally-trained North America blew the start and was always struggling from thereon. With 1400 metres to go, Soumillon slowed the pace down to give Thunder Snow a breather after the breathless start and this really tightened the field up so much so you could have thrown a tea towel over all of them.

Then from 700 metres, as they hit the street, Soumillon smelt blood and wound the race up.

For a bit, West Coast and Pavel looked like they were going to live with the 2017 UAE Derby winner but he had their measure and once Soumillon said go he did just that and accelerated away from them like a Ferrari leaving ordinary cars in his wake.

Soumillon started celebrating as the crowd erupted.

— With inputs from Alaric Gomes, Chief Reporter & N.D. Prashant, Staff Reporter