Thunder Snow will carry Godolphin hopes as he gets ready to battle his formidable rival Churchill again in tomorrow’s G1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The globetrotting star is set to lead Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s team into Britain’s most glamorous and important five-day race meeting.
No three-year-old trained in Europe has embarked on such a demanding international campaign in the first half of the season as Thunder Snow.
The Helmet colt won the G2 UAE Derby at Meydan before his disappointing trip to Churchill Downs, where he was pulled up after 50 yards in the G1 Kentucky Derby.
He then bounced back to finish second to Churchill, beaten two and a half lengths, in the G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas at Curragh.
If anything, Thunder Snow seems to be thriving on the rigours of the campaign, but Saeed is not underestimating the task ahead against a quality opposition.
“Thunder Snow tries hard in his races, but Churchill beat him comfortably at the Curragh, and that colt is again the one to beat,” said Bin Suroor.
“He is our best horse, and he has done very well after coming back home from Ireland. He will run well, but it is a very tough race.”
Bin Suroor is awaiting the arrival in Britain of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed before finalising his Ascot plans. “I will discuss all the horses with Sheikh Mohammed first,” the trainer added.
Beautiful Romance in Thursday’s G1 Ascot Gold Cup will no doubt be a subject for discussion between the owner and trainer.
The New Approach mare, fifth in last year’s G2 Hardwicke Stakes, finished an excellent seventh in the G1 Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington, in November before winning the G2 Zipping Classic, over 2,400m at Sandown in Australia.
She then travelled to Dubai where she won the G3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy, over 2,800m and finished second to Vazirabad in the two-mile Gold Cup.
“She hasn’t been showing me a lot in the mornings here at Newmarket,” Bin Suroor said.
“She’s a very good two-mile filly, we know that, but I want to see something in her next piece of serious work.”
Saeed said that plans for two of his G1 Derby runners, Benbatl (fifth at Epsom) and Dubai Thunder (11th), depend on weather and ground. “Ideally, we want some rain for them,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Cloth Of Stars has been ruled out of G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes after failing to sparkle in his work at Chantilly.
Trainer Andre Fabre felt that the demands of a hat-trick of quick wins early in the season may have taken its toll.