On Saturday, it was one of Sheikh Mohammed’s horses Thunder Snow that proved to be the best as the five-year-old made history to become the Dubai World Cup’s first two-time winner with a barnstorming victory over Gronkowski at Meydan.
Thunder Snow’s win marked trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s ninth victory in the feature event of the world’s richest race day.
The prestigious meeting marks the end of the United Arab Emirates racing season — Sheikh Mohammed is also the Prime Minister of the UAE — bringing together the world’s top jockeys, trainers and thoroughbreds.
On Saturday, a cool $35 million was up for grabs across the six Group 1 and three Group 2 races, culminating in the showpiece Dubai World Cup, which is worth $12 million.
Piloted by Christophe Soumillon, defending champion Thunder Snow snatched victory from Gronkowski to win after a photo finish in a time of two minutes and 3.87 seconds.
“He is a such a brave horse,” Thunder Snow’s trainer Saeed told the Dubai Racing club website. “I wasn’t sure if he had won, but we had the best jockey in the world on board and he knows him so well.
“He has won the UAE Derby and now the Dubai World Cup twice on him from wide draws and they are a great team.
“As for Thunder Snow, I will have to speak with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, but I would like if he could run in America again. Maybe in New York, in Saratoga with the final plan being the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.”
Soumillon said Saturday’s win had proved to be a tougher race than Thunder Snow’s 2018 triumph.
“Last year I won by five, six, even more lengths, and today Thunder had to fight hard,” the 37-year-old Belgian jockey told the Dubai Racing club website.
“I really want to say a big thank you to Saeed bin Suroor, and also to HH Sheikh Mohammed, just before the race they said to me in the paddock you should have so much confidence and do everything right.
“It was very hard, I was more looking like a Cheltenham jump jockey in the end than an American style jockey but you need to get him going and sometimes you need to do something different.
“The thing is, I promised to Saeed that I will just have the trophy and he will have the money so I’ll have to come back next year!”
Named after the NFL star who retired earlier this week, Gronkowski had led for most of the race and owner Amer Abdulaziz admitted it was frustrating to finish second.
“He’s run a great race, I can’t believe he was so close,” said Abdulaziz. “When you come that far and you get beaten by such a narrow margin, it is so frustrating, but this is also a victory for us. In the end, we were beaten by a better horse but our horse is a great horse.”
In the penultimate verse of his racing ode, Sheikh Mohammed writes that the Dubai World “brings me joy that lingers, an utmost pleasure … A happiness against which none else can measure.”
Given his Godolphin team won four of the eight thoroughbred races, Saturday proved to be a particularly joyous day for the racing enthusiast.