Here we sit, the Arkansas Derby just around the corner as the last of the 100 point Kentucky Derby prep races and tons of questions surrounding this year’s derby field. I can’t remember the last time we had a field in which no one or three or four horses found their way to the top of the pile. Most people that I have talked to agree this is one of the weakest or at least even fields we have seen in years. There is no Nyquist vs Exaggerator, Pharoah vs. Dortmond, Chrome, Orb vs Verrazano and Goldencents. As we sit here right now, we will likely be looking at a field full of possible prices come derby day.
A few weeks before the big 100 point races started here in the United States, the same weekend as the Spiral and Sunland derby, a Derby qualifier was crowned in the UAE Derby. The winner there by a small margin was Thunder Snow. But who is he and does he have a chance?
An interesting line and let’s not be quick to dismiss because of the foreign indicators in the bloodline. Helmet was a multiple grade one winner in Austrailia winning a total of four graded stakes including three grade 1 races. He was shipped off to Meydan and Ascot where he didn’t fair as well, we can right off the Meydan as he didn’t like the tapeta track at the time and his one race in Ascot ran in a race that was won by some horse named Frankel. Thunder Snow is the first Group 1 winner for Helmet.
On the other side his dam Eastern Angel has turned into quite the successful producer. She has four runners from five foals and all four have found their way onto graded stakes boards. The other three:
• IHTIMAL – four graded stakes wins including UAE Oaks-G3, UAE 1000 Guineas, May Hill Stakes-G2 and the Sweet Solera Stakes-G3.
• ALWAYS SMILE – a multiple winner at the handicap level and the runner up in the G1 Sun Chariot Stakes where she finished 2nd to a monster of a horse Alice Springs.
• FIRST VICTORY – winner of her first two starts including the G3 Oh So Sharp Stakes.
Further down the line, DUBAI DESTINATION was a multiple graded stakes winner winning the G1 – Queen Anne Stakes in his short career.
Breaks well from the outside as the 13, grabs the four lane hitting the first turn and has no problem turning in traffic, even gets a small bump from the inside and maintains his line. Move in tight traffic as they leave the backstretch into the turn, staying tight but never giving up line or pace. Finished well, traveled a bit down the stretch but came back into it. Was giving up ground to back horses as the wire came. Ended up wide throughout, 4 wide in first turn and 3 wide coming home. Fought on well, impressive finish against well ran foe.
In his first try on dirt he breaks well from gate 5 in a decent 10 horse field. Sits in the 2nd group through the opening stretch into a fairly soft pace. Moves up into the lead as they enter the turn and takes over foes easily with nice quick turn of foot. As they are coming out of the turn Bee Jersey makes strong move and comes up along side looking to go by, Thunder Snow responds instantly and never gives up the lead pulling away easily and winning under a hand striding away wining easily.
Breaks well from gate three, rider in gate two is quickly unseated, Thunder Snow remained unaltered. Sits near the pace and moves well over the turf. Continues the race from just off the leader. Field moves extremely wide to the outside hedge, once he straightens up he quickly separates himself from the field and wins going away without much effort.
The only replay I can find only shows the last part of the race Thunder Snow is sitting near the lead with about 2 furlongs to go, rivals make moves on either side of him and he seems to respond well at first try, but then loses ground to foes and finishes fourth. The winner of the race Churchill is winner of five straight including four graded stakes. Second place finisher Lancaster Bomber would go on to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, but would late lose to Thunder Snow in The UAE Derby. Third place finisher has not raced since.
Nothing like watching replays in French. Breaks well from gate 5 and grabs the rail (on the right side of the horse) and continues through the turn less 7 furlongs. Begins to make strong move with rival and the two move well clear of the field. Thunder Snow finishes a head in second behind Rivet who has came back to win the Racing Post Trophy – G1 in October and is scheduled to run in the English 2000 guineas.
Breaks well from gate 2, into a very bumpy and rough start. Finds his way to just off the pace setter and makes a strong move coming out of the right hand turn to engage the leader. With about a furlong to go War Decree takes the lead and Thunder Snow follows to a clear second. Aidan O’Brien’s War Decree hasn’t ran again since, but is scheduled to run this weekend in the Prix de Frontainebleau against some serious competition a Chantilly (FR). Now he is coming off a huge layoff of nearly 9 months, but I am interested to see how this horse runs. Is a 9 month layoff too long to learn anything about the class of Thunder Snow…maybe, but I am interested.
Include a 6th place finish in his second start at first attempt at graded stakes, this was a strange race that had two large groups break to either side of the straight 6 furlong course. The group without Thunder Snow made the first move and Thunder Snow as late to get on. This race was too strange and can be an easy toss. The other was his first start that where he finished first against what looks to be a fairly weak field.