What simply began as two well-regarded Group winners chasing home subsequent Godolphin Mile (G2) champ Heavy Metal over his best distance, has developed into the most-heated rivalry in UAE racing. Sadly, though, as much as the racing public is salivating to see ‘round five’ of the enthralling North America vs. Thunder Snow saga, it must wait three additional weeks to find out who can rightfully be declared the best horse in Dubai, as the former will skip a defence of Super Saturday’s Group 1 $600,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Mar. 9.
“We’ve decided we’re going to miss the third leg,” said Satish Seemar, trainer of North America. “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 Jan. 10) by nine lengths. This is only 40-50 days (between romping the 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.”
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 sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1)—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 51⁄4-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 continued. “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 5-year-old Thunder Snow and 7-year-old gelding North America, they have much in common. The latter is a former Godolphin colour-bearer, 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 Jebel Ali Mile (G3) winner Secret Ambition, Firebreak Stakes (G3) fifth Behavioral Bias and strong 1200m handicap winner Lavaspin.
“Secret Ambition will go on to the (Group 3 $350,000 Burj Nahaar) on Super Saturday,” Seemar reported. “Behavioral Bias might be shortened up in trip. It (1600m) was probably too far for him. Lavaspin will also go on Super Saturday (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.”
This Thursday Seemar has five contenders, with a trio of runners in the 1200m Land Rover Discovery Handicap in the shape of Dark Angel gelding Log Out Island, Meydan newbie Quayside and Al Maryah Island Trophy Handicap winner Riflescope. The last-named posted a speedy 1:09.90 for the 1200m turf contest—the fastest of the season so far. Additionally, Bochart will line up in the Jaguar F Pace handicap and UAE 1000 Guineas (Listed) third Lady Parma will start in the UAE Oaks (G3).
“I hope Bochart jumps well,” Seemar said. “He went on his nose last time and we expect a better effort this time. Riflescope should run well and Quayside, a French horse we received recently, is doing well.”
So far Seemar boast the highest strike rate of any trainer (five starts or more during the carnival), with 5 wins from 15 runs, with a promising team lining up on the eighth night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival this Thursday.