The greats across all sport always rise to the occasion.
Three weeks ago at Meydan, Thunder Snow was making his first appearance of 2019, and struggled to second place, finishing nine and a half lengths behind Cappezano.
His speed was lacking, stamina looked weak and he seemed a different horse to the one that lit up World Cup night 12 months ago.
But pressure makes diamonds and his trainer Saeed bin Suroor never looked worried, always reiterating the fact that more training and recovery would work in his star’s favour for World Cup night.
And Godolphin’s Emirati handler proved to be right.
Thunder Snow provided both him and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with a record ninth triumph in a thrilling race.
With Christophe Soumillon again in the plate, Thunder Snow was settled on the heels of the leaders and tracked the imposing favourite North America and Gronkowski into the home straight.
As North America faded away with the intense pace of the closing stages, it turned into a battle between Thunder Snow and Gronkowski, with the defending champion prevailing by a nose after a photo finish.
And while Gronkowski did not win, Oisin Murphy should be proud in the manner of which he guided the four-year-old around the track.
For bin Suroor, it was a remarkable victory and one that was richly deserved for the Dubai World Cup’s greatest-ever trainer.
The next focus for Thunder Snow will be the Breeders’ Cup in November where he finished an excellent third last season. Perhaps that extra year of training and experience could work in his favour ahead of the award winning race.
“He is a such a brave horse. 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,” said bin Suroor.
“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 Group 1 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.”
Soumillon showed serious composure throughout the 2000 metre race and never appeared worried.
It was a tougher race than the 2018 victory but the Belgian jockey picked his moment to great effect on the home straight and steered Thunder Snow to a famous triumph.
The 37-year-old said: “Last year I won by five, six or more lengths and today I had to fight hard. The two horses in front were going better than me, but I gave him a chance.
“It was very hard to get by Gronkowski. I was looking more like a Cheltenham jump jockey in the end instead of an American-style jockey, but you need to keep him going and do something different.
“I promised to Saeed that I would have the trophy and he would have the money so I will have to come back next year.”
North America finished a disappointing seventh and jockey Richie Mullen admitted he had no explanation for his below par performance.
“We were dictating nice fractions but at the furlong (200 metres) pole he emptied. We’re going to get him scoped. He just hasn’t put in his race. He travelled extremely well, I was extremely happy until we turned in to the straight. I have no explanation. It was a below par effort,” he said.
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The Godolphin horses will deservedly milk the bulk of the limelight from Dubai World Cup night, but it was Japanese-filly Almond Eye who shone brightest under the lights at Meydan.
The flying filly was racing for the first time since shattering the track record in November’s Japan Cup, and duly picked up where she left off on her first start outside of her home nation.
The four-year-old was produced with a well-timed run by jockey Christophe Lemaire to secure the 1800m Dubai Turf – her seventh successive win – with compatriot Vivlos a length and a quarter back in second and Deirdre finishing fourth.
“It was a really great race. She broke well, settled well, got a good position and accelerated well to win well. It was the result I thought we could get and I’m happy she proved us right. I was nervous, I’ve lost my voice,” said trainer Sakae Kunieda.
The ultimate target for the Lord Kanaloa filly is to become the first Japanese winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and from what she has shown to date, she has all the qualities to achieve this historic feat.
Kunieda added: “Almond Eye can continue my dreams, so next we’ll go to Europe, our dream is to take her to the Arc.”
Lemaire was equally impressed with the manner of her victory and believes there are big things on the horizon for a horse who still looked head and shoulders above the competition despite not getting out of second gear.
“She was very impressive. The way she accelerated is unbelievable. Today was her first start of the year, and quite early on she was actually in front of the rest of the field. I think she relaxed a little bit and she had a bit of a margin on them,” he said.
“When you have the right horse and you have confidence in your horse, you can go out confident no matter what happens – and she’s the right horse. Hopefully, there are some big victories on the horizon for her.”
Blue Point cemented his status as one of the best sprinters in the world with an impressive victory in the Al Quoz Sprint.
The Charlie-Appleby trained horse has been in outstanding form throughout the Dubai World Cup Carnival, with wins in the Meydan Sprint and Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.
Blue Point broke well and William Buick was happy to stay composed, until 200metres from home, where he made his move.
The sire of Shamardal quickly asserted and put the race to bed, crossing the line one length clear of Belvoir Bay.
Stormy Liberal finished three-quarters of a length back in third.
Appleby said: “You have got a combination here of William and the horse. They thrive off each other. William knows him inside out. I knew from the body language, as much as you never get confident too soon, but I felt that William had pretty much everything covered there. I’m delighted.”
With Blue Point’s long-term target set to be the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, victory in Dubai provides the Newmarket handler with the perfect confidence booster ahead of June’s showpiece.
“It’s a tough game but if he turns up fit and well, he is going to be there to try and defend his crown in the King’s Stand Stakes. I spoke to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and we said that as long as he ran well here that would be the plan,” he said.
Buick, who first rode Blue Point back in 2016, has seen the five-year-old’s progress first-hand and believes he has plenty more to come.
“It is great at the age of five he is showing everyone just how good he is and he has always shown us so much speed. I remember riding him as a two-year-old and I’d never ridden a faster horse before he made his debut. He has developed into a top-class sprinter now,” he said.