Author: Derek Thompson
Stand by for a bit of Thunder and Snow at Meydan: no, it’s not a bad weather forecast, it’s the 2018 Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow who makes his long awaited seasonal debut in the Maktoum Challenge on Super Saturday. Thunder Snow was a brilliant winner of the world’s richest race last year and although he hasn’t run since finishing a highly creditable third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Accelerate at Churchill Downs last November, he is undoubtedly the one they all have to beat on Saturday. His official rating of 122 puts him 8lb clear of his nearest rival so even allowing for the fact that it is his first run for four months, he should stake his claim for another tilt at the Dubai World Cup at the end of the month.
I found him in rude health when I visited him at Saeed bin Suroor’s stable last week and he has been working well enough to put up a bold show on Saturday night. It could well be a ‘blue’ night for another Godolphin star: Blue Point runs in the Nad Al Sheba Sprint for trainer Charlie Appleby. There was a lot to like about the way he streaked home by five lengths in his comeback race at the track last month and it will take a super performance from one of his rivals to beat him. His rating of 120 puts him 8lb clear of his rivals so Blue Point should take the world of beating! Here in the UK only 19 horses were declared for Wednesday’s six race card at Lingfield as the British trainers continue to fight for higher prize money at the all-weather tracks. Ralph Beckett called for fellow trainers to boycott the meetings until prize money improves and judging by just 19 entries, he seems to have been listened to.
I am all for people to state their case and we would all love to win more money but I do think ongoing discussions should be the first priority because at this moment the lack of runners is hurting everyone. The biggest National Hunt meeting in the world, the Cheltenham Festival, gets under way next Tuesday and I, like thousands of others, can’t wait. Over 50,000 racegoers will pack the enclosures every day where the highlights are the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, the Champion Chase on Wednesday, the Stayers Hurdle on Thursday and then the big one, the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday. On the opening day, Buveur D’air will try to win the Champion Hurdle for the third time and the last horse to do that was Istabraq back in the last century!
It’s going to be asking an awful lot of the horse, especially as he is going to be taking on the brilliant Irish-trained youngsters Apples Jade and Laurina, but you don’t win two Champion Hurdles unless you are a very special horse and I expect jockey Barry Geraghty to pounce him late and fast and create a bit of history! On Wednesday trainer Nicky Henderson, the man who handles Buveur D’air, will try and win the Champion Chase for the second year running with Altior and according to the betting, it is a one horse race. Altior reigns supreme amongst the two mile chasers and it will be the shock of the week if he gets beaten. There is no doubt about it, Cheltenham is unique and thousands of Irish people will make their annual pilgrimage to the home of National Hunt racing to enjoy the festivities.
Every hotel for miles around is booked up; it can sometimes takes hours to get in and out of the course car parks and the weather can be a bit dodgy as well but it is special. Indeed, as always I’ll be one of the presenters on BBC Radio 5 live, it’s the most listened to annual sports event on network radio, which goes out for five hours every day and I have the honour of interviewing every winning jockey as they ride back to the winner’s enclosure. Now National Hunt horses can be pretty big animals so Tommo will be getting his mic extension out next week!