Geoff Lester
6 minute read
4 Apr 2018
12:36 pm

Sheikh Mohammed celebrates memorable Meydan victories

Geoff Lester

Smart Call runs at Kempton on Saturday

IMPRESSIVE. Mendelssohn is fast becoming a strong favourite for the Kentucky Derby following his emphatic victory in the Grade 2 UAE Derby on the dirt at Meydan on Dubai World Cup meeting. Picture. Neville Hopwood

London: Sheikh Mohammed has enjoyed some memo- rable moments since launching Godolphin in 1994.

But celebrating four Group 1 winners in front of his own people on the richest day’s racing on the globe at Meydan last Saturday, including the $10-million Dubai World Cup for the seventh time, must surely take pride of place in his scrapbook.

Maybe, Thunder Snow is not the next Dubai Millennium, but he would certainly be superior to African Story and Monterosso and probably Street Cry, Moon Ballad and Electrocutionist, too.

The way in which Thunder Snow powered up the Meydan straight in record time, leaving America’s best dirt horse West Coast 5.75 lengths adri , captivated the 50,000 crowd who roared themselves hoarse.

Saeed bin Suroor was celebrating a remarkable eighth success in the race, and he was quick to praise Christophe Soumillon, who performed miracles to get across and lead from the start from his outside draw.

Soumillon, the nine-time French champion, knows Thunder Snow is not straight forward he proved unrideable in last year’s Kentucky Derby and will stop and look at himself on the big screen whenever he can.

However, Meydan is a great track for front-runners and the Belgian called the shots from start to finish, riding Venezuelan Javier Castellano on the favourite to sleep.

Thunder Snow’s two previous wins at the top level came over 1600m on grass, but Soumillon is adamant this 2000m is the colt’s ideal trip and thinks he could give either Enable or Cracksman something to think about in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

However, Bin Suroor has a second solid contender for that race in Benbatl, who was equally impressive when putting international competition to the sword in the Dubai Turf.

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It was only this week 12 months ago that Benbatl made his racecourse debut, but he has made phenomenal improvement at this year’s Dubai Carnival, and, having reeled in Mike de Kock’s Janoobi early in the straight, he shrugged off a three-pronged Japanese challenge as if they were nuisance flies in the sweltering 36 degree heat.

Bin Suroor, very much the local hero on World Cup nights in Dubai over the last two decades, was celebrating his sixth win in the race and praised Oisin Murphy for “getting the tactics spot on”, the jockey having been the first to admit that he “messed up” on Benbatl when they were beaten in the Jebel Hatta.

Fellow Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby must have thought it was not going to be his night when hot-favourite Blue Point had to be withdrawn at the stalls before the Al Quoz Sprint, having burst a blood vessel.

However, second string Jungle Cat picked Appleby off the floor by giving him his first World Cup Night winner to ice the cake on what has been a fantastic Carnival for the trainer.

William Buick, “gutted” when Blue Point had to be pulled out, gained handsome compensation when Hawkbill, the Godolphin second-choice behind the free running Cloth Of Stars in the $6-million Sheema Classic, made all and ground his rivals into submission.

Buick, who had another scare at the start when Hawkbill got his leg caught in the stalls, knew his 2016 Eclipse Stakes hero had the class to see them off and rode the perfect waiting race in front.

He said: ”Happily, a second dra- ma at the start ultimately ended well, but I felt we were in control from halfway and the Dubai City of Gold was the perfect prep for Hawkbill as it put his head straight and his body right. He’ll be an exciting horse for us in Europe this summer.”

Europe have never won the Kentucky Derby, but America’s most prestigious race has long been top of Coolmore’s “bucket list”, and in Mendelssohn, who produced the most breathtaking performance of the night when winning the UAE Derby by an astonishing 18.25 lengths and in record time, Ryan Moore feels that Aidan O’Brien has one that fits the bill.

O’Brien has thrown five darts at the ‘Run For The Roses’, the closest he’s come being a fi h in 2011, but Mendelssohn, who already has an American Grade 1 in the bag, having won last year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf, gives the Coolmore team their best chance yet.

Slashed to 6-1 favourite for Churchill Downs on 5 May a er this spectacular performance, Dewhurst Stakes runner-up Mendelssohn looked to relish his first experience of the dirt, no surprise really as he is a Scat Daddy half-brother to that awesome triple Breeders Cup heroine Beholder.

Moore might not get much sleep through April deciding on whether he should head to Kentucky or stay at home to ride stablemate Saxon Warrior, who is favourite for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket the same day.

He’s already won the Guineas twice, whereas he was “blown away” by his first experience of the Kentucky Derby, which has a wide-open look to it this year, so it looks a tough call.

Moore, who made all on Mendelssohn, increasing the fractions as the race progressed, said: ”He has the quality, the form and the looks to go with his pedigree, and being a May 17 foal can only get be er. He’s very exciting.

“Obviously, Kentucky will be a lot tougher with 20 runners, but the whole occasion of their Derby was simply staggering and it gave me a bigger buzz than anything I’ve experienced, the Melbourne Cup included.”

Not to be outdone by Godolphin and Coolmore, the Aga Khan was all smiles a er Vazirabad became the first thoroughbred to clock up a hat-trick of wins at this meeting when taking the Group 1 Dubai Gold Cup, also in record time.

Vazirabad was denied a tilt at the Ascot Gold Cup last year when the ground turned so , so the Aga is hoping for a “Flaming June” so that he can show Britain and Ireland he has the best stayer in Europe.

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I’ll be looking to find the Grand National winner for you next week, but for now I suggest the South African-owned SMART CALL can get back on the right track by landing the Listed Snowdrop Stakes on the Polytrack at Kempton on Saturday.

Smart Call, top-class in her homeland, has been beset with problems since she embarked on a world tour, but, while things did not work out in Hong Kong in December, this is a big drop in class and Sir Michael Stoute is encouraged how well when she ran on her one experience of this all-weather surface in Group 1 company at Deauville last year.