Dual G1 winner Thunder Snow features among a 16-strong Godolphin team for the first fixture of this year’s Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan, UAE, on Thursday, 11 January.
The Saeed bin Suroor-trained Helmet colt returns to dirt for the mile G2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 having scored over the same course and distance in the G3 UAE 2000 Guineas last year before going on to capture the G2 UAE Derby over a furlong and a half further.
Four-year-old Thunder Snow (Christophe Soumillon) was one of Europe’s leading turf milers last season following several excellent performances, headed by a comfortable victory in the G1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly, France.
Saeed bin Suroor is also represented in the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 by Confrontation (Pat Cosgrave), who captured the G3 Firebreak Stakes over a dirt mile at Meydan in 2016 and makes his first start since disappointing in the same race last year.
Saeed bin Suroor commented: “Thunder Snow has been doing well out in Dubai. We gave him a nice break after his last run in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, when the ground was very soft.
“He has been working well and it’s a case of so far, so good with him. He has won twice on the dirt at Meydan before, so the return to the surface will be no problem, and he is ready to make his first start of the year.
“We will see how he gets on this week before making any plans for later in the Carnival and Dubai World Cup Night.
“Confrontation was disappointing last year but he is a nice horse and has been going well in his work. He has won over this course and distance and we wanted to give him another chance in a Group contest.”
Thunder Snow and Confrontation oppose six rivals in the Al Maktoum Challenge R1 with Meydan G3 winners North America and Heavy Metal plus G1 Al Maktoum Challenge R3 victor Long River set to provide the main opposition.
Thursday’s card also includes the G3 Singspiel Stakes over nine furlongs on turf, which has four Godolphin runners including Emotionless (Charlie Appleby/James Doyle), third on his latest outing in the 12-furlong G2 Dubai City Of Gold Sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo on Super Saturday.
Benbatl (Saeed bin Suroor/Oisin Murphy) stayed on well to take the G3 Hampton Court Stakes over a mile and a quarter at Royal Ascot in June, while fellow four-year-old Bay Of Poets (Charlie Appleby/William Buick) was also successful in Europe last season, readily winning a nine-furlong Listed race at Clairefontaine, France.
Carry On Deryck (Saeed bin Suroor/Gerald Mosse), a mile turf handicap winner at Meydan and runner-up in the G3 Darley Stakes at Newmarket in 2016, completes the Godolphin quartet.
Charlie Appleby said: “We were pleased with Emotionless in the Dubai City Of Gold last year and he summered well in the UK.
“He has been gelded since his last run and I think he has benefited for it – he was a big unit as a two-year-old and lost his way the following year but seems to be coming back to himself.
“Nine furlongs is going to be a bit on the short-side for him but he will be doing his best work late on and hopefully this will put him right for the rest of the Carnival.
“Bay Of Poets has been training well. We will try and ride him to come home late and coming back to a sounder surface will help.”
Saeed bin Suroor added: “Benbatl looks better physically compared to last season. This is an interesting starting point for the year and will help us to decide future plans. He is a horse who is working well all of the time and nine furlongs should be fine.
“Carry On Deryck is in good form and goes well fresh.”
Godolphin is well-represented across the evening’s handicaps, with last year’s G2 Dubai City Of Gold Sponsored by Emirates SkyCargo victor Prize Money (Gerald Mosse) and German G1 runner-up Best Solution (Pat Cosgrave) both lining up for Saeed bin Suroor in a 12-furlong turf contest.
Last season’s Wokingham Handicap second Steady Pace (Saeed bin Suroor/Pat Cosgrave) and Bravo Zolo (Charlie Appleby/James Doyle), a Listed winner at Newmarket on his latest start, head five Godolphin contenders for a seven-furlong handicap on turf.
Alabaster (Saeed bin Suroor/Pat Cosgrave) scored in a 10-furlong dirt handicap at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival before going on to finish third in the mile G3 Burj Nahaar Sponsored by Emirates Holidays and the six-year-old returns in a dirt handicap over nine and a half furlongs.