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Godolphin star Thunder Snow set for Whitney

Godolphin star Thunder Snow set for Whitney

Two-time Dubai World Cup winner has left 2017 Kentucky Derby fiasco well behind him
Godolphin star Thunder Snow set for Whitney
Thunder Snow and exercise rider Walter Lynch skip along the Saratoga main track for a seven-furlong breeze Sunday morning.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- By now, Thunder Snow is best known as the only two-time winner of the Dubai World Cup.
That is, unless the only race you pay attention to is the Kentucky Derby.

If that's the case, then perhaps you remember how the Godolphin star, who shipped overseas to Kentucky from Dubai, didn't so much Run for the Roses as he Whacked Out for the Weeds.

In the 2017 Derby, Thunder Snow went full bucking bronco under Christophe Soumillon right out of the starting gate and was on his way back to the paddock before the rest of the field, led by Always Dreaming, had even hit the finish line.

Since then, he has established himself as a global star by winning the Dubai World Cup the last two years, which is largely responsible for his $16,511,476 in career earnings.

And Thunder Snow has left that Derby fiasco behind on this side of the Atlantic with sparkling performances in three races in the U.S., although still without a victory. He'll take another crack at that Saturday against some more stiff competition in the Grade I $1 million Whitney at Saratoga Race Course.

"We need to win a Grade I here," said Tommy Burns, the traveling assistant trainer to Godolphin's head trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He's so honest and genuine. You look at his form, and he gives his all."

Thunder Snow, who shipped to Saratoga last week and is stabled at the quarantine barn on Fifth Avenue, breezed seven furlongs in 1:27.31 on the main track Sunday morning with exercise rider Walter Lynch in the irons.

Burns said he has taken to the dirt surface at Saratoga better than he has at his other U.S. stops, Churchill Downs and Belmont Park.

During serious workouts like Sunday's, the 5-year-old horse usually wears cheekpieces, which are pads on the side of the face designed to restrict some peripheral vision and get the horse to focus, similar to blinkers. Burns decided they weren't necessary this time.

"He's worked well; they wanted 1:28," Burns said. "The other horse in front of him gave him something to aim at, which I was pleased with. And when he went past him, he pulled himself up, as he does in his work at home.

"The  best I've seen him, I think, has been on this surface. For some reason, he's thriving out here, he's moving so well. I spoke to Saeed yesterday, and we usually work him with the cheekpieces, because he's lazy, but he's shown no signs of that. All the factors say he's well in himself."

Thunder Snow has shown that the 2017 Kentucky Derby was an aberration, not only with how he has raced in Dubai and in Europe, but also in the U.S., even though he hasn't won here in three races since the Derby.

He was second by a neck to Discreet Lover in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont last year leading into a third by less than two lengths behind Accelerate and Gunnevera in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill.

Then this year he ran into a blockbuster field in the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day and just missed in finishing a length behind Mitole in third, with McKinzie taking second a neck ahead of Thunder Snow.

"Any other year, that time wins for the first three horses, so it was a top-class race, and we're very pleased that he was still traveling into the straight," Burns said. "So he's showing now that he's learned that you can go any speed you want early on.
"From Kentucky Derby to now, he's a different horse. You saw in the Met Mile, he was up there. He's just improved in every aspect of American racing. He is a lovely, balanced horse. His temperament is very good, but he can be a little fiery to deal with. But nothing fazes him."

That includes some serious globetrotting over the last three seasons.

Since he debuted as a 2-year-old in 2016 with a victory at Leicester in Great Britain, Thunder Snow has raced in France, Ireland, Dubai, Kentucky and New York.

Although he'll get some company at the quarantine barn later this week when trainer Aidan O'Brien ships in five horses for the Saratoga Oaks and Saratoga Derby, Thunder Snow has been a happy camper by himself, going about his business.

"It's just in him. He travels, he's hard as nails, big heart, and nothing fazes him," Burns said. "He's happy, eating good. As usual, he's up for it. He's traveled everywhere. There's not a bother on him. He's unbelievable."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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