HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and Emir of Dubai’s dream of winning the Kentucky Derby could be realised on Saturday night, when his Godolphin colt Thunder Snow lines up at Churchill Downs.
In 142 years ‘The ‘Run for the Roses’ has never been won by an overseas-based horse, although few have tried, racing on dirt being rarely attempted by trainers in Europe or Australasia.
Thunder Snow will be trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s eighth runner in it, however, but first since a two-pronged attack in 2009. Godolphin’s best result in the race was fourth, with Frosted, trained in the States, two years ago.
“He has a better chance than the horses we have brought in the past,” says the Emirati trainer, whose best Kentucky Derby result to date is a sixth place with China Visit in 2000. “He has class and he’s a Group I winner, plus he won the UAE 2000 Guineas and Derby on the dirt. A mile and a quarter won’t be a problem for him.”
It’s probably true that Thunder Snow is the best horse Bin Suroor has taken to the race, in that he already has a Group I win on his CV, that coming in the Criterium International in France last October.
On that occasion he was ridden by Christophe Soumillon, who retains the ride, having yet to be beaten in three rides on the colt.
The Belgian had to be at his best to coax the son of Helmet to success in the Group 2 UAE Derby from a tricky outside post, wearing down the hitherto unbeaten Epicharis in the dash to the line. It was a win which showed the colt had guts, but today’s task will be so much harder.
Despite the experience of two starts on dirt at Meydan, he will be unaccustomed to the frenetic early pace of the race and Soumillon will need to be alive to the possibility of getting penned in from his low draw, possibly with a lot of dirt kicked in his face.
Factor in a tiring travelling schedule – from Dubai to the UK to America inside a week – and Thunder Snow has a mountain to climb. Rain is also forecast in the build-up to the race, meaning a possibly wet track and another unfamiliar surface to contend with.
He has the talent, but will need a lot of luck. It might well have influenced Godolphin’s decision to send Thunder Snow to America – eschewing closer targets in the UK and France – that this is a wide open race.
It lacks a real stand-out performer, and there are doubts about the favourite Classic Empire, who has had a far from perfect preparation. Always Dreaming, runaway winner of the Santa Anita Derby, looks another of the main dangers as one of a three-strong team trained by Todd Pletcher.
Assuming Thunder Snow exits Churchill Downs safe and sound, there is little to be lost in running in what is America’s most prestigious race.
If he’s beaten, there’s a plethora of excuses, but if he wins he will have made history. It’s a gamble, but that is what racing is all about.
Sport360 brings you the ultimate guide to this week’s sporting events in the UAE.
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ARABIAN GULF LEAGUE
Tuesday, May 2
Champions Al Jazira host Al Nasr is the stand-out fixture of the round as the home side look to finish their campaign off on a high. Henk ten Cate’s side have only been beaten twice in 24 league games this season.
Elsewhere, Al Ain are away to Sharjah and Kalba entertain Al Ahli.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL: REAL MADRID VS ATLETICO MADRID
Tuesday, May 2
The home of the Real Madrid Supporters club in Dubai and definitely the best place to watch the game if you’re a fan of Los Blancos.
Located down by Jumeirah Beach Residence, the café looks out on to The Walk and makes for a picturesque setting while watching Zidane’s men battle it out against their city rivals.
VENUE: Real Madrid Café
UAE VS PORTUGAL
Wednesday, May 5
The UAE recorded a dramatic 3-2 penalty shoot-out success over Panama on Sunday night to progress to the quarter-finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in the Bahamas.
The UAE will now face in-form Portugal for a place in the last four.
TV: BeIN Sport
22ft DUBAI TRADITIONAL DHOW SAILING RACE
Wednesday, May 3
The fourth and final heat of the 22ft Dubai Traditional Dhow Sailing Race will take place on Wednesday.
It’s the last race on the marine calendar before the eagerly anticipated Al Gaffal Long Distance Race on May 13.
Thursday, May 4
Dubai welcomes an exceptional boxing event on Thursday, which will include seven boxing matches during which three kickboxing and Thai boxing belts will be in play.
Under the theme of “Fight for Health”, this event also sets itself within Dubai’s Year of Giving, as part of the proceeds will go to the Saudi German Hospital in Dubai.
WHERE: One and Only Royal Mirage
URBAN ULTRA WADI RACER
Saturday, May 6
Taking place at the Wadi Showka, the trail run begins at 05:00 with a five hour cut-off time for competitors to complete the race.
Three distances are on offer with a 30-kilometre, 20km and 10km run, for everyone aged 16 and older.
Runners must have a head torch, which is mandatory and required to start the race.
Along with a head torch, other mandatory gear needed for the event includes a 1.5 litre hydration pack or bottle, a cell phone, a collapsible cup, a whistle, an empty ziplock bag (to keep the environment clean), a printout of the course map and a first-aid kit.
WHERE: Wadi Showka
We visited the Sharjah Golf and Shooting club to check out the state of the art facilities and equipment the club proudly boasts.
The instructors are knowledgeable and professional, they stress safety as the number one priority for the guests of the shooting range – meaning beginners feel comfortable, while the more experienced shooters have much to gain from sessions with the well-rounded coaches.
Target shooting is a form of sport that has been exercised throughout the decades, with roots in the Summer Olympics and national competitions. The Olympic Games showcase the best marksmen from around the world in different shooting categories, from rifle shooting to air pistols as well as skeet and trap.
The Sharjah Shooting club hosts up to four pistol shooting competitions a year that are monitored by judges from the police academy.
Aside from being a competitive sport, pistol shooting can be a weekly activity for people seeking to relieve some stress and get away from the monotonous routine of the weekend.
Your physical ability is a factor, but not in the sense of fitness or endurance. You will need to have a solid posture and arm strength to handle the firearm, but the mental aspect of the activity far outweighs the physical.
The process of focusing and zoning in on a target, then shooting and actually hitting the bullseye is an exhilarating experience, to say the least.
The fundamentals will also help you be a more accurate shooter, in terms of trigger control and how to grip the firearm. All these techniques will be illustrated by the coaching staff.
The most important element to remember is safety. The basic rules of safety must be exercised every time you are ready to handle a firearm. The instructors will guide you through the safety steps and will stress you keep them in mind throughout the shooting rounds.
GIVING IT A GO
You will have three components at your fingertips, the bullets, a magazine (clip) and the firearm. The first step is to load your clip with the rounds, insert the magazine and pull the hammer.
When you are ready to engage, raise the firearm forward and aim at the given target, always keep the firearm aligned with the dominant eye and after your aim is secure, apply your finger on the trigger and pull.
Beginners will have a hard time controlling the recoil of the firearm, however, as you continue to shoot, you will adapt to the power of the weapon. The second challenge will be trigger control, this contributes to the accuracy of the shot. The pull must be a balance of swiftness and patience, it sounds easy but it takes some time to perfect that balance.
Give yourself a couple of rounds to test your aim and grip on the firearm, the perfect grip keeps recoil to a minimum while giving you the best chance of hitting your target. The objective is to get down the fundamentals until they become routine, once that is in check, your accuracy will build with time.
My rounds were solid despite the one miss, but the shots could still be tighter and more concentrated. Accuracy will vary depending on the firearm, the more tactical and professional the weapon, the harder it becomes to remain accurate.
The key to becoming more accurate across all weapon platforms is repetition and solid fundamentals. If you are interested in becoming a better shooter, the Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club offer coaching programs that will definitely improve your skills.
We used a Glock 17 during these rounds, a weapon the instructor Bibin Joseph claimed to be his favourite. A wide variety of firearms are available at the club for guests to enjoy; from Walther M16’s, to GSG MP5’s along with Berretta’s, Glock’s and Sig Sauer’s.
If you are planning on doing something different this weekend, head down to the club and start shooting your way through the stress and pressure of the working week. It could prove to be an exciting alternative to the regular day at the gym or lunch with friends.
A few quick tips to remember: Always keep your eyeglasses and ear guards on while inside the range and have a valid Emirates ID or passport to present to the front desk.