The last time an American audience paid attention to Thunder Snow was last year’s Kentucky Derby, where he broke, bucked and his rider pulled him up and out of the race just after the start.
He more than made up for that performance on Saturday at Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates with a dominating 5 3/4-length win in the $10-million Dubai World Cup.
Three Southern California-based horses finished second through fourth, with West Coast, Mubtaahij and Pavel putting in good performances. Thunder Snow was the only Dubai-based horse in the race. West Coast, who finished second in the $16-million Pegasus World Cup to since-retired Gun Runner, was the presumptive favorite. Gambling in the UAE is illegal.
Christophe Suomolin was the jockey and Saeed bin Suroor the winning trainer.
West Coast and Mubtaahij are trained by Bob Baffert and Pavel by Doug O’Neill.
While the World Cup was the main event, the buzz surrounded Mendelssohn, who qualified for the Kentucky Derby by winning the $2-million UAE Derby by an astonishing 18 3/4 lengths. He set a track record for the distance, about 1 3/16 miles, and ran the fastest UAE Derby by 2.27 seconds.
Aidan O’Brien is considered one of the best trainers in the world but has never won a Kentucky Derby. It was the intention of the connections to send the colt to Louisville if the horse qualified. Horses that make the trip from Dubai usually are not a factor on the first Saturday in May, but Mendelssohn’s performance will no doubt create interest in him as legitimate contender.
Mendelssohn won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar in November, so he is no stranger to long commutes.
The $2-million Dubai Golden Shaheen, a turf sprint, was an American sweep with Mind Your Biscuits, last at the top of the stretch, catching X Y Jet at the wire. Roy H, trained by Peter Miller, finished third.