DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Godolphin’s homebred superstar Thunder Snow made history on Saturday when he outdueled a very game Gronkowski to become the first horse to ever win consecutive editions of the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) at Meydan Racecourse.

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Breaking from post 12 under Christophe Soumillon as the 4/1 third choice, Thunder Snow rushed up quickly enough to be able to cross over and secure second from the two-path. In doing so, he kept the 7/2 co-favorite Capezzano pinned to the rail, which forced Capezzano to pull up sharply in order to keep from running up the heels of early leader North America. Midway down the backstretch, Gronkowski and jockey Oisin Murphy made an early move to take the lead around Thunder Snow’s outside.

At the top of the stretch, Gronkowski cleared away from North America to his inside and attempted to clear off, but Thunder Snow soon began reeling him in. Thunder Snow met him eye-to-eye at the final 1/16 marker, but Gronkowski would not be intimidated and dug in gamely. The two drew away from the rest of the field as the crowd roared with excitement, and in the end, the hometown hero crossed first by a slim nose in a final time of 2:03.87 for the 1 1/4-mile event over the fast main track.

“Last year, I won by 5, 6, even more lengths, and today, Thunder had to fight hard,” Soumillon said. “It was very hard; I was more looking like a Cheltenham jump jockey in the end than an American-style jockey, but you need to get him going, and sometimes, you need to do something different. The thing is, I promised to Saeed that I will just have the trophy and he will have the money, so I’ll have to come back next year!”

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Gronkowski’s narrow defeat was the closest he had come to winning since finishing an improving second in last June’s Belmont Stakes (G1). One reason may have been the new tactic of keeping him closer to the early pace.

“I spent 10 minutes warming him up and I gave him a dig out,” Murphy said after the race. “I just thought the fancied horses would be ridden prominently, and why give them a head start? It nearly worked out.”

Gunnevera closed down the middle of the stretch to finish third over fellow American-based runners PavelAudible, and Yoshida, who shared 7/2 co-favoritism with Capezzano. North American weakened to seventh ahead of Seeking the SoulAxelrodDolkong, and a disappointing Capezzano to complete the order of finish.

“We got pushed into the rail after 100m and we were in trouble after that,” Capezzano’s rider Mickael Barzalona said after the race.

Thunder Snow’s win was his first since taking this race last year and improved his overall record to 23-8-7-3. The 5-year-old son of Helmet increased his lifetime earnings mark to $16,191,476 – good enough for second all-time behind only Arrogate ($17,422,600).

“He is a such a brave horse,” bin Suroor said. “I wasn’t sure if he had won, but we had the best jockey in the world on board and he knows him so well. He has won the UAE Derby and now the Dubai World Cup twice on him from wide draws, and they are a great team. I think this is my 191st G1 winner, but it ranks very highly, probably along with Dubai Millennium in 2000 when he won this race. As for Thunder Snow, I will have to speak with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, but I would like if he could run in America again. Maybe in New York, in Saratoga, with the final plan being the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.”

Thunder Snow returned $10.20 to win, $6 to place, and $3.80 to show. Gronkowski brought back $32.60 to place and $17 to show, while Gunnevera paid $4.40 to show.