RACEGOERS IN the UAE will have to wait a little bit longer to witness the fifth installment of the sizzling rivalry between 2018 Group 1 Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow and his local foe North America. Connections of North America have decided to let him skip the defence of his Group 1 $600,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Super Saturday 9 March, with trainer Satish Seemar declaring the 7yo son of Dubawi will head straight to the world’s richest race Dubai World Cup. Seemar said: “We’ve decided we’re going to miss the third leg. “As you know, the last three or so times he has proven that he runs at the top of his game fresh. The first time he ran in Dubai as a maiden, he hadn’t raced in a while and he was amazing.
“The second time he ran after a year he was on top of his game and then he came back after being off many months and won (the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 on 10 Jan 10) by nine lengths. “This is only 40-50 days (between romping Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2), so I don’t see a reason to run in between. He’ll go straight to the Dubai World Cup.” The North America v Thunder Snow saga started out as a tussle between two Group winners chasing home subsequent Group 2 Godolphin Mile champ Heavy Metal over his best distance. Last year, Godolphin’s Thunder Snow ran in all three Al Maktoum Challenge races against North America before winning the Group 1 Dubai World Cup a race in which the latter missed the break, allowing Thunder Snow to dictate the pace, win impressively and leave all of North America’s supporters helplessly wondering what might have been.
The pair had finished second and third in the aforementioned Round 1 prior to throwing down a brilliant stretch battle in Round 2—arguably the most exciting race of the 2018 Carnival. A neck separated them, with Saeed bin Suroor-conditioned Thunder Snow gaining the slight advantage near the wire. Four weeks later, North America put a continent between them in the final 400m with a tour-de-force five and quarter length win in Round 3, setting up a showdown that never manifested in the Dubai World Cup. This year, Thunder Snow is recovering from a taxing August-November campaign and has been pointing toward Round 3 as his comeback spot, while a fresh North America has taken his Carnival foes on a carousel, leading from gate-to-wire with ease in both Rounds.
This has naturally exasperated rhetoric between each camp as their imminent showdown looms. “We’ve already beaten Thunder Snow by five lengths,” Seemar added. “In the (Dubai) World Cup, we had a gate incident and it was just unfortunate. They are right next to the speakers at the start and he was agitated by the sound when they took off his earplugs. He was on the wrong foot and just didn’t jump well, so we are changing things up with him. “We have a handler in the gates with him now and we have taken the ear plugs out. We did that in the (Round 2 win) last out and it got him used to the sound.” While two years of age separate the 5yo1 Thunder Snow and 7yo gelding North America, they have much in common.
The latter is a former Godolphin colourbearer, having been sold to Satish after six fruitless starts for Charlie Appleby in England. Since then, he has been campaigned gingerly, but earned seven victories from 11 subsequent starts — all at Meydan — for an overall record of 7-for-17 and four Group victories. Thunder Snow, on the other hand, has a 7-for-21 record and six Group victories. Between them, they have four Group 1 tallies, with Thunder Snow owning three. Seemar also touched on his other Dubai World Cup Night aspirants, including Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile winner Secret Ambition, Group 3 Firebreak Stakes fifth Behavioral Bias and strong 1200m handicap winner Lavaspin. Seemar continued: “Secret Ambition will go on to the Group 3 $350,000 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday.
“Behavioral Bias might be shortened up in trip. It (1600m) was probably too far for him. Lavaspin will also go on Super Saturday in the Group 3 $350,000 Mahab Al Shimaal. “That’s the only choice with him. He’s quite a brave horse and he’s going with the big boys now. He took on one big boy already when he beat a multiple Grade 3 winner in Switzerland and now he will move up again.”