DUBAI: In the 23 years that he has overseen the training of horses for Godolphin, Saeed Bin Surour has seen it all. From the exhilarating highs to the excruciating lows, he has experienced and witnessed a range of feelings at some of the premier racecourses around the world.
However, on Thursday night at Meydan Racecourse, the all-conquering Emirati handler was once more in celebrator mode after saddling a hat-trick of wins at the Dubai World Cup Carnival, including a significant win in the featured Round 2 of the $250,000 Al Maktoum Challenge with Thunder Snow.
For me winning is important, it means that we are doing the right thing with our horses. It’s a team effort and all the team feel the same way.”-Saeed Bin Surour | Godolphin trainer
A disappointing second in Round 1, the 2017 UAE Derby (Group 2), storm right back into contention as a $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) contender after outduelling North America, a graduate of the UAE Horse Sale, to score by a neck.
Thunder Snow was the middle leg of Bin Surour’s three-timer, following on from Winter Lightning’s emphatic success in the Listed $200,000 UAE 1000 Guineas and Leshlaa in the concluding $160,00 Handicap on an evening where Gulf News were the overall sponsors of the card’s seven races.
Bin Surour, who has saddled 10 winners in five Carnival meetings so far, said he felt a sense of National pride to be successful at Meydan Racecourse.
“It always feels special to win a race in front of your fellow Emiratis,” said Bin Surour, the Carnival’s leading handler on eight occasions.
“It’s feels different. But for me winning is important, it means that we are doing the right thing with our horses. It’s a team effort and all the team feel the same way.
“It also makes me feel proud, as an Emirati, to be able to do this and do it well. Many people around the world are watching the Carnival races, so winning is also a good advertisement for team Godolphin and for Dubai,” he added.
“When His Highness Shaikh Mohammad [Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] founded Godolphin in the early nineties, this was his objective. To prove to the world that horses trained in Dubai could challenge for the best races anywhere in the world.”
Commenting on the plans for Thunder Snow, Bin Surour said: “We knew that he would relish the extra distance in Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge. He’s a proper galloping horse who wants more, so the extra furlong in Round 3 should not pose a problem.
“He still has some improvement in him and he’s getting fitter and fitter with every race. I don’t want to get too carried away with him, but I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s progressing.
Bin Surour declined to comment whether Thunder Snow was his principal World Cup candidate although British bookmakers William Hill took cognisance of his latest performance to trim his odds to 8-1 (from 14-1) for the March 31 showpiece at Meydan.
Talismanic, Godolphin’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) hero is a 14/1 shot in a market led by a trio of America-based gallopers who contested the $16 million Pegasus Cup (G1) run at Gulfstream park, including West Coast (2nd, DWC odds 3/1), Collected (7th, 7/1) and Gunnervera (3rd, 14/1).
Elaborating on plans for his two other winners on Thursday, Winter Lightning and Leshlaa, Bin Surour said: “Winter Lightning is a filly for the future. She is a big, strong filly who can show something this year and during her four-year-old campaign.
“She always shows her class and we need to think about the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket (May 6). But we will first see how she gets on in the UAE Oaks (March 1) first.
“Leshlaa will go to the Dubai Millennium Stakes (Group 3, February 22). We would like to keep him at the same trip (2000m).
Elsewhere on the card Doug Watson held on to his lead at the top of the trainer’s ranks with a meet double courtesy Street of Dreams and My Catch, while Darren Bunyan gave Ireland it’s first 2018 Carnival courtesy sprint star Hit The Bid.