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Thunder Snow has been a dominant force in racing in the Middle East but has not been able to transfer his form to English soil.
However, the Irish horse will be determined to change that fact when he competes for the first time at Royal Ascot in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Churchill stands in his way of success, along with a talented field, and the bay colt will have to raise the level of his performances to take the crown.
The challenge will be a tough one in an extremely competitive field, with the 3-year-old backed in the latest horse racing betting odds at 14/1 to claim victory at the meet.
Thunder Snow is one of the most experienced horses competing in the St James’s Palace Stakes with nine races under his belt.
He began his career at the end of May 2016 at the Maiden Stakes at Leicester and got off to the perfect start. The bay colt was one of the leading contenders for the crown but still pulled off a strong performance to edge out Parys Mountain by 1 3/4 lengths.
However, Thunder Snow was to endure disappointment in his next outing, in his first appearance at Ascot Racecourse. At the Coventry Stakes, he was placed in a crowded field and finished in sixth place, ending well off the pace of winner Caravaggio.
The bay colt got back on track with back-to-back second-place finishes, beginning at Goodwood at the Vintage Stakes – just being beaten out by War Decree. Two months later, Rivet got the better of him at the Champagne Stakes, with the Irish horse losing out by a head.
Thunder Snow had his first crack at facing the might of Churchill at the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, but he, along with the rest of the field, was blown away by the pace of Aidan O’Brien’s charge, ending the meet in fourth place.
A change of scenery provided a return to winning ways for the Irish horse and Saeed bin Suroor, with new jockey Christophe Soumillon taking to the saddle at the Criterium International Group 1 race. He produced a blistering performance to take the victory by 5 lengths.
Bin Suroor kept Soumillon in the seat when Thunder Snow travelled to Dubai for the UAE 2000 Guineas where the bay colt highlighted his class with another comfortable victory.
He followed that up with another victory at Meydan in an extremely competitive field. Thunder Snow had to be at the peak of his powers in the race and down the final furlong, producing just enough speed to edge out Epicharis in the UAE Derby.
A bizarre incident at the Kentucky Derby prevented the horse from competing as he appeared to have severe problems with the mud track, with Bin Suroor taking the decision to pull him from the race.
There would have been concerns heading into the Irish Guineas whether lightning would strike twice. The bay colt did produce a strong outing but, once again, the pace of Churchill was too much for Thunder Snow to contend with down the stretch.
They’ve had time to work on the issues, but whether it will be enough to make a significant difference between the two horses remains to be seen. Thunder Snow will need to produce something quite special to beat out Churchill and secure his first win on English soil.
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