Meydan Racecourse, Dubai – It was a battle to the finish for the UAE Derby Sponsored By The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group, but in the end, the Godolphin blue made it to the wire with a few inches to spare.
Local rising star Thunder Snow got a short head past the popular Japanese raider Epicharis in what was the eighth win in the race for both Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
Winning jockey Christophe Soumillon said, “He is a champion with a big big heart. He gave me everything. He is a champion. I knew he was going to be something special when he won in England last year.”
Two Japanese contenders took the lead in the early stages, but as they hit the stretch, Thunder Snow passed a tiring Adirato and started to eat away at the lead that Epicharis had enjoyed.
The son of the late Gold Allure showed how talented he really was by finding new gear after gear as they approached closing stages, trying to hold off his rival.
With about 200m to go in the race, Thunder Snow seemed to lose his focus, but he was able to come back and out-duel Epicharis to win by a short head. Master Plan finished third, with Lancaster Bomber, Fly at Dawn, Qatar Man, Fawree, Spirit of Valor, He Runs Away, Vettori Kin, Top Score, Adirato, Cosmo Charlie, Nomorerichblondes, Bee Jersey, and Midnight Chica completing the order of finish.
Soumillion said, “I was very confident before the race. He had good gate speed and jumped well, but he was startled by the lines on the ground or something and changed leads, shifting out for a few strides. I was able to get him focused again and thought I still had time to come back.”
Bin Suroor added, “This was a new trip for him at 1900m, but I had confidence. Christophe knows the horse well, so I knew he’d be able to sort out anything, even though he did look a bit green there 200m out, but the jockey sorted him.”
The future seems bright for Thunder Snow, according to his trainer.
“I talked to Sheikh Mohammed just now and we have nominated him for the Kentucky Derby, but we are also considering the French, Irish, or even the English Derby,” he said. “We are keeping our options open and we will make a decision when I talk to Sheikh Mohammed again.”
With the win, Thunder Snow earned 100 points towards a berth in the Kentucky Derby. Epicharis, who already earned a spot as the Japanese champion 3-year-old, earned 40 points, while Master Plan earned 20 and Lancaster Bomber earned 10.
Thunder Snow returned $7.60 and $3.20 to win. Epicharis brought back $4.40, while Master Plan paid $5.
Quotes for Group 2 US $2m UAE Derby
Jockey Christophe Soumillon, Thunder Snow – “He got scared twice of the screen. I could feel when we came into the last turn, he put his nose completely on the left. He did not turn left. And when I came into the straight, he was just waiting for that screen.”
“I was trying to get him to concentrate. And fortunately, when I arrived at the 150m marker, he just saw the marks from the gates on the ground. He got scared, he changed legs, and he stopped.”
“I tried to keep him to concentrate. I knew it wasn’t finished. I thought, ‘You are doing it to me again.’ He was really giving it hard to me. I thought, ‘You never know, he might come back again.’ And he did. Today, he showed me he was still a bit immature.”
Godolphin executive John Ferguson, Thunder Snow – “It was a very good performance and a really international race. You have a winner from Dubai and a horse from Japan and an American horse.”
“It just shows how international the whole thing is. From Thunder Snow’s point of view, he did it in a good time, he showed he is very brave, and it was a great performance. And His Highness has just mentioned that the Kentucky Derby is a possibility. It could be a great idea.”
Jockey Christophe Lemaire, Epicharis – “He was very brave. It was the first time he had been on this dirt, but he answered very well and showed a lot of ability. It was a very close race, but the winner was very strong and must have held some advantage at a home ground. He was very relaxed during the trip and showed his best run. It was defeat today, but you would have to be happy.”
Jockey John Velazquez, Master Plan – “He didn’t have the easiest run. He stayed on really well. He’s a very nice horse.”
Jockey Ryan Moore, Lancaster Bomber – “He ran a very nice race for his first run of the year.”
Jockey William Buick, Fly At Dawn – “He ran well to come home fifth. I took him out of the early speed duel and I think it paid off; he finished well to finish fifth against what I thought was a pretty strong field.”
Jockey Colm O’Donoghue, Qatar Man – “He broke smart from the gates and ran solid throughout. It was a high class contest and a solid effort.”
Jockey Bernard Fayd’herbe, Fawree – “He ran OK. We had some interference, but he’s still a bit green.”
Jockey Seamie Heffernan, Spirit Of Valor – “He was staying on a bit, but eventually we just got tired for a few strides. He was drawn wide and he ran his race.”
Jockey Silvestre De Sousa, He Runs Away – “He needed the race, I just wish we’d got a run into him.”
Jockey Joel Rosario, Vettori Kin – “He broke fine and was going good and was in a good position. It looked to me like he maybe just got a little tired at the end. He was moving well, but then he just had trouble moving forward when the running started.”
Jockey Adrie de Vries, Top Score – “He refused to jump, so it was always going to be difficult.”
Jockey Yutaka Take, Adirato – “He ran well. The distance was probably a bit far, and he ran respectably, given his post position and the fact that he might not have been able to handle the wetness of the surface.”
Jockey Pat Dobbs, Cosmo Charlie – “He didn’t turn really well on the first bend and he didn’t enjoy the kickback. The track is OK, but the kickback is pretty bad.”
Jockey Antonio Fresu, Nomorerichblondes – “It was just no good today. She missed the break a bit and she never really picked up.”
Jockey Sam Hitchcott, Bee Jersey – “It went nicely until he had to run his race, but that’s racing. I was settled beautifully behind Thunder Snow, but we got a bump and that was race over.”
Jockey Chris Hayes, Midnight Chica – “I got in a terrible position early and just couldn’t hold it. She lacked a bit of experience.”
Credit: Dubai Racing Club