After the Thunder comes the Snow.
There is only one man who truly knows what it takes to win the main event on the world’s richest race day – and that is Godolphin’s understated genius Saeed bin Suroor.
The master trainer said little leading up to race day.
When quizzed about his charge all he would say was that Thunder Snow was training well, as was stable-mate Benbatl, who was another impressive winner for Bin Suroor and Godolphin on the night, claiming the Dubai Turf in 1m46.02s.
Bin Suroor prefers to let his horses speak for him on the track and Thunder Snow did exactly that.
Starting from the outside post – a position that many thought would cripple his chances – jockey Christophe Soumillon quickly got him to the inside to make the running and set a leisurely pace on the back straight.
This seemed to perfectly play in to the hands of Bob Baffert’s West Coast, who surely would blow the Snow away on the final corner.
But the challenge never eventuated, much to Soumillon and the packed gallery at Meydan’s surprise.
Thunder Snow found another gear, which West Coast simply did not possess, and charged away down the straight to win Godolphin’s ninth and Bin Suroor’s eighth Dubai World Cup.
No other trainer or owner comes close.
For Soumillon it was his first ever Dubai World Cup title and no one was happier after the finish than the likeable Belgian.
Asked his plans after claiming the crown all jockeys are after, the 36-year-old said: “I have no plans now. This needs a big party.”
Another man who was celebrating was the driving force behind Godolphin, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.
The founder watched on from his position on the rails near the winning post – the same position he had stood all night, rubbing shoulders with ordinary race-goers, surrounded by his family who were enjoying their night at the races as much as their father.
He showed no outward change in emotion early on but he must have been disappointed as Godolphin’s favoured runners in the Dubai Gold Cup and UAE Derby failed to deliver.
No doubt he was pleased as Jungle Cat claimed a thrilling victory in the Al Quoz Sprint, moments after the shock scratching of Blue Point – and then was as thrilled as everyone around him by Benbatl, Hawkbill and Thunder Snow claiming the last three races of the night in such commanding performances.
Most of all he would have been thrilled that all the hard work of the Godolphin stable was paying off.
His humble joy was not displayed overtly – but the twirl said it all.
As his children and family gathered on stage, he left his son Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, to lift the Dubai World Cup.
Congratulations to UAE for the Godolphin’s Thunder Snow winning of Dubai World Cup title at Meydan .. Best horses in the world with the biggest owners globally all in great Arabian night in UAE pic.twitter.com/8DU6pTIM5a— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) March 31, 2018
Instead HRH stood on the side of the stage and then spontaneously, magically, he thrilled the adoring crowd with a joyous spin, holding three fingers up in celebration.
It said more than any words could ever do.
Four winners including the Dubai World Cup itself, on a glorious day of racing culminating in a beautiful warm night in Dubai, showcasing the best this extraordinary city has to offer.
Arrogate’s win was exceptional last year.
This moment will be even harder to top.
As he stood at the rail nervously waiting for race five to start his heart sunk as he heard the news that his number one contender for the race, Blue Point, had been scratched at the gate with blood in his nostrils.
But before he barely had time to process the shocking news, his emotions turned to joy as he watched James Doyle produce a telling late burst on Jungle Cat, another of his three runners in the 1200m sprint on turf, to pounce inside the final 200m and take the winners purse.
The 6-year-old Irish horse won by half a length to the good from the strong finishing Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion Stormy Liberal with a length and half back to another American contender, the pacesetting Conquest Tsunami.
The winning time a sharp 1:09.37.
“I said before the race that if Blue Point was to falter tonight then Jungle Cat would be there to pick up the pieces,” Appleby said post-race.
“I don’t know what happened with Blue Point but there just seemed to be a trickle of blood from his nose.
“Once he was withdrawn I knew I had to compose myself as Jungle Cat was in the form of his life.
“The team has done a fantastic job and I am delighted to win. I fancied him last year but the rain came and he finished fourth. He is now a Group 1 winner and I am very proud of him.
“James (Doyle, jockey) gets on with him very well and he rode a perfect race. It is a first Group 1 for Jungle Cat and it is richly deserved.
“It is also a terrific feeling to win a race on the biggest stage for Godolphin,” he added.
Doyle, who was on his first winner of the day said: “Obviously, he stays 1400m so I jumped quite well and then found myself just in the middle of them.
“He is a horse who likes to get a bit of room, so there was that option after going a furlong or so to move out to my right and give him all the room in the world and that panned out all right.
“You can set the clock by him. He is fantastic.”
For Blue Point jockey William Buick, it added to a disappointing start to the day as to that point all he had to his name was a third on Rare Rhythm in the Dubai Gold Cup.
Buick still sounded upbeat saying: “It’s disappointing for me but it’s great for the team that we still got the winner.”
However Buick, and Godolphin’s fortunes were set to change after Jungle Cat’s inspiring triumph.
Two races later the royal blue silk was back in the winners’ circle as Benbatl, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, and ridden by Oisin Murphy finished strongly to win the Dubai Turf.
And then in the penultimate race of the night Buick finally got his winner, partnering Hawkbill to a stunning victory in the Dubai Sheema Classic, giving Appleby his second and Godolphin their third win of the night.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rahid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was delighted watching on from his position near the winning post – thrilled that all the hard work of Godolphin stable was paying off in such impressive performances.
Greater joy was to follow soon after as another Godolphin charge Thunder Snow won the main event.
The Aidan O’Brien trained 3-year-old strode out around the final corner to win by a staggering 18 ½ lengths from Rayya with Reride in third.
The finishing time of 1:55:18 broke the existing mark of 1:56:51 set by Mizbah last year,
The pre-match favourite, and local hero, Godolphin’s Gold Town wilted badly to finish a disappointing fourth.
Mendelssohn, the sire of Scat Daddy, will now set his sights on the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
O’Brien confirmed after his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf success that the Derby was under consideration and following a comeback success at Dundalk in early March, Mendelssohn took the next step on the road to Churchill Downs in this nine-furlong Group Two.
One of the best performance in Dubai World Cup night. It will take some horse to beat him in the Kentucky Derby. Brilliant win.— Alex jones (@ajax1964_alex) March 31, 2018
Jockey Ryan Moore appeared keen to get Mendelssohn to the lead from the moment the gates opened and he soon navigated his way to the front.
From that point it was a matter of margin rather than result, as one by one his rivals fell away as the US challenger galloped on impressively.
Most remarkable about the run was that it was Mendelssohn’s debut on dirt.
But the further Mendelssohn went the better he looked and he passed the post a long way clear of Rayya to score in a course-record time.
Afterwards the usually staid O’Brien worked hard to contain his delight.
“Ryan was happy he had a good draw and if he broke well he was happy to let him travel in front,” said the Irishman, “he gave him a great ride – we couldn’t be happier.
“He came forward lovely from his first run and that was good experience for him on that surface first time.”
Moore said: “He’s a very fast horse. He could have led a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf if I’d wanted to.
“It’s the first time he’s been in front today and he’s still a horse that’s learning, so he was still a bit green in places. It was his first run on dirt, so that was huge for him, and it was his first time at this trip, so that was another question mark.
“He’s a high-quality horse who has got better with every start.”
Looking ahead to a possible tilt at the Kentucky Derby, the jockey added: “Obviously the next time it’s going to be a far tougher question, there’s no doubt about that, but we’re very happy with what he’s done and I still feel he will get better.
“He’s got the pedigree and the looks to go with the form that he’s producing, so he’s a very exciting horse.”
It was Moore’s second win of the day after he got local horses off to a great start with Heavy Metal taking out the Godolphin Mile for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in the first race of the day.
The GCC again triumphed in the Dubai Kahayla Classic with a strong ride from Saudi Arabia representative Tallaab Al Khalediah, trained by Mutlaq bin Mashraf and ridden by Roberto Perez.
Dubai Gold Cup (G2) to Vazirabad, who makes it a hat-trick on wins of World Cup Day..by Manduro (Monsun). Dam by Linamix, group winning half-sister to G1 winner Varenar, going back to a half-sister to Swale..— Pedigree Consultants (@Pedigreeconsult) March 31, 2018
The ride of the day, prior to the Mendelssohn masterclass came in the third race, when Vazirabad made it an historic hat-trick of wins on Dubai World Cup day in the Dubai Gold Cup over 3200m on turf.
Trained by Alain De Royer-Dupre and ridden by Christophe Soumillon, the French gelding charged down the straight, vanquishing Godolphin’s Frontiersman (fourth) and Rare Rhythm (third) who had led into the final 300m.
Sheikzayedroad held on for second for the UAE, trained by David Simcock and guided by Martin Harley.
There was a sensation just moments before race five, the Al Quoz Sprint, as the favourite – Godolphin’s Blue Point – was scratched at the gate with blood in his nostrils. Trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick must have started to think it wasn’t there day.
But Appleby was not to be denied with James Doyle bringing home another of his runners, Jungle Cat – the Godolphin horse cheered on by a overjoyed crowd.
Trainer Peter Miller filled out the minor placings with Stormy Liberal second and Conquest Tsunami third.