Thunder Snow became the first ever dual winner of the Dubai World Cup in a pulsating renewal of the Meydan showpiece.
The five-year-old provided trainer Saeed bin Suroor with a record eighth World Cup success last season – dominating proceedings from the front in the hands of Belgian superstar jockey Christophe Soumillon.
Thunder Snow rounded off his 2018 campaign by finishing an excellent third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and although he was a beaten odds-on favourite on his return to action three weeks ago, Bin Suroor was confident his charge would put up a staunch defence of his crown.
With Soumillon again in the plate, 4-1 shot Thunder Snow was settled on the heels of the leaders and tracked the strong-travelling North America and the Oisin Murphy-ridden Gronkowski – formerly trained in Britain by Jeremy Noseda – into the home straight.
As North America dropped away, it turned into a straight shootout between Thunder Snow and Gronkowski and while the latter did not go down without a fight, Thunder Snow claimed a historic victory by the narrowest of margins.
Soumillon said: “Last year I went to the lead and won by five or six lengths. Today I had to fight hard as when I came to the turn, the two horses in front were going better than me.
“It was very hard (work) and I was looking more like a Cheltenham jumps jockey than an American-style (Flat) jockey in the end!
“I want to say a big thank you to Saeed bin Suroor and also Sheikh Mohammed as they gave me confidence before the race.
“And thanks to Thunder Snow because without him I would not be able to do these kind of things.”
Bin Suroor said: “The Dubai World Cup has been extremely kind to me and to have the pleasure of training a horse like Thunder Snow is something that’s hard to describe.
“I have always dreamed that he could win one World Cup, but to become the first horse to win two is something I am finding hard to believe.
“He is a fantastic horse and has such a professional approach to everything he does.
“I knew he needed his run here three weeks ago and that he would come on for that, but Christophe needs to take a lot of the credit, as he has formed such a wonderful relationship with him.
“The two of them get on so well and from his stall on the outside (stall 12), Christophe knew the only way he could win the race was to become competitive straight away.”