Thunder Snow 2.0: Curragh and Royal Ascot Performances Prove…He’s Selective, Not Broken.
Forty-five days after performing the song-and-dance at the Kentucky Derby that earned him a boatload of incorrect reporting–and countless articles written by people who nothing about horses–Godolphin‘s Thunder Snow showed his true colors on Tuesday, June 20th at Royal Ascot.
(He warmed up to that place of vindication at the Curragh in late May–but we’ll get there in a minute.)
You may recall that on this very website, I wrote about Thunder Snow in the immediate wake of his confusing (to some) performance at Churchill Downs on The First Saturday in May. As the rest of the field charged out of the gate, looking for Derby Glory–Thunder Snow danced and bucked, using his body language to state definitively, “Uh-uh. Nope. Not today. Sorry, but–NO.”
In my previous article, I wrote that–contrary to what naysayers and those who possess media credentials (but no actual horse knowledge)–Thunder Snow was not broken. He wasn’t–isn’t–a “bad horse.” He just-plain thought about the situation–and put the kibosh on his team’s Kentucky Derby aspirations.
Saeed bin Suroor, Thunder Snow’s insightful and brilliant trainer who’s entrusted with so many of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum‘s horses–stated his confidence in the horse, in the immediate throes following the Derby. He said that the horse has class, and that they would move on with him.
Clearly, bin Suroor knows his horse, for on May 27th in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh in Ireland–Thunder Snow came in a fine second to the monster/expected winner, Churchill. No dancing out of the gate–no rodeo antics. Just a straight romp in the grass from a horse who, again, thought about it–and decided that yes, he’d run that day.
Maybe he loves the feeling of cool, soft grass on the frog of his hoof? Maybe he doesn’t like the scent of Hot Browns, brought into his Churchill Downs barn in takeout cartons. Perhaps he just needed that moment to clear out his proverbial carburetor–to assert himself and his sentience–before settling down and deciding to participate in his owner’s campaign to see what he could do.
Whatever it was–Thunder Snow went back to his barn at Newmarket following his Kentucky Two-Step, and settled back into training for the race at the Curragh. His second was very respectable, and beautiful to watch.
But even more marvelous–and thrilling!–was his performance yesterday (21 June), in the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Racing against his stablemate, Barney Roy (who won) and Lancaster Bomber, Thunder Snow showed his grit. Watching the race (see video), it’s obvious that he was in it to win it. His third sounds like a third, on paper–until you watch the race. For a few seconds, it looked like it would be a triple dead-heat.
But Barney Roy pulled ahead, Lancaster Bomber came in on his tail–and the vindicated Thunder Snow missed that second by just a head. A head, between second and third. The three horses could’ve held hooves: a beautiful, close, thrilling horse race. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUhtcyHzt5M
(N.B., that Barney Roy broke the record for the St. James’s Palace Stakes–so coming that closely for third, Thunder Snow showed the class and will that powered him to victories in the UAE Derby and UAE 2000 Guineas earlier this year.
Oh, and note, also, that Churchill–who came in first to Thunder Snow’s second in the Irish 2000 Guineas–came in a dismal fourth at Royal Ascot. A full 3+ lengths behind Thunder Snow’s…behind.)
The biggest thrill, for me, was to see the marvelous Thunder Snow–underestimated by all general media and most horse racing media, and too-many American fans–showing that indeed, he has class. “Class,” that thing that–like love–we can’t define, but we know it when we see it.
Thunder Snow has class. He threw a revolution on The First Saturday in May, asserting his individuality. Showing, I believe–the strength of his will, and the power of his soul. The Kentucky Derby did not show, by any means, that Thunder Snow shouldn’t be in horse racing.
Au contraire, mes frères! If anything, it showed that my boy (when I love a horse, he becomes, “my boy”)–that my boy, Snowy, thinks even more than I realized during the Kentucky Derby. He may be “super-sentient”: working together, his success can be chiseled (like a statue in marble), by Saeed bin Suroor because Mr. bin Suroor has the patience to listen to his horse, and to hear Thunder Snow’s inner Champion, his brilliance.
Furlong-by-furlong, thundering to the finish line–Thunder Snow is carving out his own career, in his way. In his time.
His performances, seen as a whole, are first–testimony to the sentience of all horses–and especially, to the intelligence, prowess and power of Sheikh Mohammed’s misinterpreted but beloved son of Helmet.
Yes, I’m going to write it. In bold, no less.
Told ya so.
Note to HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Saeed bin Suroor: I implore you, please give America another chance for Thunder Snow! Please bring him to Saratoga for a lovely month in our relaxing, country environment–then race him in the $1 million Sword Dancer on the turf, on August 26th. Yes, it’s 1 1/2 mile, but it’s on the grass–which you know Thunder Snow loves–and, after resting here and working out in our fresh mountain air–I believe that the Sword Dancer will be like a leisurely stroll in the park for him. Shukran, for considering, Your Highness and Mr. bin Suroor. 🙂
Thunder Snow brings it home, UAE Derby by Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club
Barney Roy, Lancaster Bomber and Thunder Snow tight at the wire by Tom Jenkins for The Guardian.