Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor believes Thunder Snow is on track to defend his Dubai World Cup title despite finishing second behind Capezzano in the Al Maktoum Challenge.
The sire of Helmet tired out midway through the 10-furlong contest and had to settle for second, finishing eights lengths behind a confident Capezzano.
It was Thunder Snow’s first race since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November and has three G1 wins and seven in total from 21 starts.
The bin Suroor-trained horse has proved before he can do it all, with two turf G1 wins and success in last year’s Dubai World Cup on dirt.
And despite suffering a comprehensive defeat in the dress rehearsal race, the 52-year-old said Thunder Snow would continue to improve in time for March 30.
Bin Suroor said: “He got tired, just like we said (he would) before the race. He will improve from the today and will be ready in time for World Cup night. He will be fine.”
Jockey Christophe Soumillon insisted he was satisfied with second, after achieving the same result in the Al Maktoum Challenge last year, and then going on to seal Dubai World Cup honours in dominant fashion.
He said: “I’m very happy. The winner, I knew before the race that he would be tough if he got to the lead with a steady pace and that’s exactly what he did.
“I’m very happy with Thunder. He always improves from his runs. If you look at last year, at the same period of the season, (this effort) was even better than then (when second in the same race). I’m very confident with him going forward.”
Dream Castle got on top in the last half-furlong to complete a hat-trick of victories in the Group One Jebel Hatta.
Christophe Soumillon delivered the Saeed bin Suroor-trained five-year-old with a well-timed run in the centre of the course to score by a length and a quarter.
The gelded son of Frankel showed a devastating turn of foot to make it a clean sweep at Meydan after victories on January 3 and 24.
Dream Castle had the Appleby-trained duo of Wootton and First Contact back in second and third place respectively.
Bin Suroor said: “Nine furlongs is a good trip for him. The plan now is to take him for the Dubai Turf.
“I think in the past we thought he was a sprinter, but I believe his trip is nine furlongs plus. He is a different horse, more relaxed and that gives him a chance to run well.”
Soumillon said: “The race went well for us. We had a nice pace. When I saw I was behind Wootton, I was very confident, because I knew he was going to take me quite far.
“When I asked him to go, he really quickened sharply. When I hit the front, he was looking around for a while. He’s a really different horse compared to last year, when he was a colt.”
Charlie Appleby continued his and Godolphin’s brilliant Meydan campaign as Blue Point, Divine Image and Old Persian all recorded victories at Super Saturday.
The Newmarket trainer took his tally of winners to 26 in Dubai over the last 12 months – including a back-to-back hat-trick of wins.
Although Old Persian capped off another outstanding night for Appleby, it was Blue Point who shone brightest under the bright lights at Meydan.
The five-year-old cemented his position as the frontrunner for the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night with a stunning victory in the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.
The sire of Shamardal shone last season with success in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and was third in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
The 43-year-old’s charge was an easy winner of a five-furlong Group Two at the track last month, and his preparation continued with another facile victory – watched on by His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Blue Point took time to find himself in the 1200m race with Log Out Island setting the early pace, but once William Buick got him rolling a furlong and a half out, they stormed across the line three lengths clear of Ekhtiyaar.
Appleby said: “I’ve always had a soft spot for this horse ever since his two-year-old career. He’s one of the quickest horses I’ve ever had and he’s just progressively improved year on year.
“Mentally he’s more mature this year and physically he’s what you want to see in these sprinters.
“He came out of his last race so well I thought we’d be better off taking another race in to keep the lid on him. He’s was just too fresh.”
BLUE POINT is way too good for them!— Meydan Racing (@MeydanRacing) March 9, 2019
The Charlie Appleby-trained sprinting superstar stretches his speed to win Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint Sponsored By Arabian Adventures under William Buick#SuperSaturday #DWCCarnival pic.twitter.com/O7gsqIJhVU
Buick added: “He felt great. He’s just a lot more professional. This was another stepping stone to the Al Quoz. It’s just lovely that he’s channelling all his strengths.
“The team has done a fantastic job with him. He’s always been an exciting horse. His confidence has grown. He knows how good he is.”
Divine Image clinched the Al Bastakiya – the second race of the day – to secure a quick double for Godolphin and Appleby.
And a treble was sown up by the fifth race, with Old Persian producing a late burst to seal success in the Dubai City of Gold.
Buick stayed composed on the four-year-old, who was having his first race since he finished fifth in Doncaster in September, but it proved no problem.
Appleby said: “He’s a horse who’s got a bright future ahead of him. Coming into this evening, we were pleased with his preparation, but we firmly have our eyes set on the Sheema Classic. There’s a little bit of improvement still there to come.”