International Thoroughbred Racing                                         Editor & Handicapper: Geir W. Stabell                                                       1992 - 2019

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Dubai World Cup contender


THUNDER SNOW (Photo: Andrew Watkins) was beaten by CAPEZZANO in his prep race for the Dubai World Cup, a race he captured last year, but Godolphin's contender can be expected to be in much better shape on the big day. Runners from this team generally are. We have seen several of them jump up bigtime from their preps to the valuable races on World Cup night over the years, and Thunder Snow is actually one of them. He was second, more than five lengths behind NORTH AMERICA, in the Al Maktoum Challenge III last year, only to turn the form comprehensively around when they clashed again in the World Cup. While Thunder Snow moved forward by many lengths, to win the race easily from West Coast, North America 'bounced' badly and finished last.

Three weeks ago, Thunder Snow was once more the runner-up in the Al Maktoum Challenge III, staged over the full DWC distance, but this time he was beaten as much as 9 1/2 lengths by the gate-to-wire winner Capezzano. Jockey Christophe Soumillon was not hard on the favourite in the closing stages, and the bare result flatters Capezzano. Still, the winning margin was incredible. Will Capezzano be able to reproduce the performance? Will Thunder Snow be able to regain his best form? The only logical answer to both questions is 'maybe' – and perhaps not all that helpful.

What we need to take into consideration, when it comes to Thunder Snow, is his long and hard campaign in 2018. Did it leave its mark, and thus affect his performance on Super Saturday (when he ran to no more than GF 106+), or was it simply a case of a horse needing the race after a long break and being given a tender ride? Soumillon certainly tried to get on terms with the leader, but soon realised it was not going to happen. So he very sensibly looked after Thunder Snow through the final furlong. Opinions will be divided, that's for sure. Many will point out that Thunder Snow is the confirmed G1 performer, and argue that he will be the best horse on March 30. Others will make the point that Capezzano's superiority last time was such that one can only expect him to come out on top again. It's a tough call, and not the only one as we attempt to solve this year's Dubai World Cup. This is not a strong renewal, nor is it going to be a two-horse race.

Thunder Snow goes into the $12 million contest off an altogether different preparation this time. He had three starts prior to the 2018 World Cup, when he ran second in the Al Maktoum Challenge II, won the Al Maktoum Challenge II (by a neck from North America) and took second in the third round of the series. Giving him just one run at the Carnival this winter made a lot of sense, as he probably appreciated a long rest after last autumn, when he ran really hard to be second behind Discreet Lover in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and third behind Accelerate in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. He got close to his Dubai World Cup winning form at the Breeders' Cup and if he can come back to his best once more Thunder Snow could become the first back-to-back winner of the Dubai World Cup.

Al Quoz contender


BLUE POINT (photo Andrew Watkins) will be a tough nut to crack in the Al Quoz Sprint. He has clearly trained on well as a five-year-old. A winner of two Group 3 events at Ascot in England as a three-year-old in 2017, he captured the prestigious King's Stand Stakes over 5 furlongs at the Royal meeting last summer, beating Battaash by 1 3/4 lengths, with Mabs Cross a neck further adrift in third place. Battaash won G2 sprints both on his preceding and his next start, while Mabs Cross won the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp in the autumn (one of Europe's top sprints). Blue Point's Royal Ascot form was strong, but he failed to live up to it on two subsequent outings in England, finishing seventh to U S Navy Flag in the July Cup at Newmarket and third to 40-1 shot Alpha Delphini in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York (when Mabs Cross ran second and Battaash finished fourth). Blue Point returned to racing action in the 5-furlong Meydan Sprint here in February, went off the 1/4 favourite, and cruised home by 5 lengths from Faatinah (who was coming off a career best effort in January).

Godolphin's star sprinter could hardly have had a better start to the campaign. His next task was the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint over 6 furlongs on 'Super Saturday' – three weeks prior to World Cup night –, a race he won by 3 lengths from EKHTIYAAR. Like Faatinah in the Meydan Sprint, Ekhtiyaar went into the contest off a career best, having outclassed 13 rivals in a good handicap event just over two weeks earlier. Blue Point's class took Ekhtiyaar out of his comfort zone, meaning that he was unable to produce the same rating we saw in his handicap win. It is hard to imagine Ekhtiyaar getting close to Blue Point.

The Al Quoz favourite likes to be placed in mid-division early on, and he moved nicely up to take command two furlongs from home in the Nad Al Sheba – running the same type of race as in the Meydan Sprint. He is an uncomplicated horse, he is in top form, and he holds home court advantage. The son of Shamardal is out to make amends – as he was withdrawn from the 2018 Al Quoz because blood was found in his nostrils before he was loaded into the stalls. He was 6/4 in the betting then and is likely to be odds-on this time. He's got plenty going for him but that is still poor betting value.

Bricks and Mortar and Irad Ortiz Jr winning the Pegasus Turf.     Photo: Adam Coglianese


How Pegasus World Cup Turf winner Bricks and Mortar, who paid just
5-2 on course, was recommended as our best early value bet at 9-1 a week out:


BRICKS AND MORTAR 9-1 / Pegasus World Cup Turf

Part of the Pegasus Day Special / Subscribers only

This Chad Brown trainee is way too big at 9-1 (William Hill, Coral and Sportingbet).

A really smart 3yo in 2017, he came back after a long layoff running over a mile at this venue in December, and was a solid – visually impressive – winner of a stakes calibre allowance heat. Coming from off the pace, in a race that was run at what could be called a normal tempo, Bricks and Mortar moved up to Mr Cub (who had the run of the race) in the closing stages, and beat him snugly by half a length. Full of energy passing the winning post, Bricks and Mortar had more in hand – he was value for another length or so.

Bricks and Mortar ran to Globeform 114p on this return, having returned GF 113p when beating Yoshida easily (and going away at the finish) in the Hall of Fame at Saratoga in 2017. He will need to improve a two or three lengths to win the Pegasus Turf, but that is quite likely to happen. He has plenty going for him; he is open to improvement, he will appreciate the 9.5-furlong trip, he has had a perfect prep over the track, and he has the powerful Chad Brown / Irad Ortiz Jr in his corner.

The son of Giant's Causway breezed at Gulfstream on Friday, clocking 59.5 over 5 furlongs on the lawn while nicely in hand – he worked with zest. He is not a high profile horse if we look at the races he has been running in, compared to the likes of Yoshida, Channel Maker and Japanese filly Aerolithe – but he is sure to be popular amongst local tipsters leading up to the big day. 9-1 is unlikely to last. An obvious EW bet. (19 Jan 19)

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