April 1 (UPI) -- The echoes from Saturday's Dubai World Cup night at Meydan Racecourse will be felt around the world for the rest of the year and in some of the sport's biggest events.
Dubai World Cup
In 2017, Thunder Snow won the Group 2 UAE Derby on World Cup night. In 2018, he won the $12 million Group 1 World Cup itself -- the first to complete that double. And Saturday, he became the first two-time winner of the World Cup in this, its 24th running. The margin was only a desperate nose over a stubborn Gronkowski but Thunder Snow did have to overcome a wide draw and doubts remaining from a dull prep race.
Granted, the son of Helmet has had some ups and downs along the way, most memorably his refusal to run at all in the Kentucky Derby. Still, he later ran credibly during the summer in New York and returned to the United States last year to finish second in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup and third in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Now, though, the 5-year-old seems to have hit his stride and captured the imagination of both his trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, and the owner, His Highness Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, master of Godolphin and Ruler of Dubai.
And that portends good things for the world of racing through the rest of 2019.
"He will come back to America," bin Suroor said after Saturday's win. "I will have to speak with His Highness but I would like it 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."
That schedule could leave room for a stopover in Europe as well.
If any horse outshone Thunder Snow Saturday night, it was Almond Eye, the 4-year-old Japanese filly by Lord Canaloa. With Christophe Lemaire up, Almond Eye cruised through the 9-furlongs turf event, racing wide around the turn to get clear sailing, then effortlessly drawing off through the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths -- a margin that easily could have been bigger.
As a 3-year-old, Almond Eye swept the three Grade 1 races of the Japanese filly Triple Crown, then dominated a field of older male horses in the Japan Cup, winning as Lemaire pleased while smashing the course record. After that performance, her legion of fans began to sense yet another chance for Japanese racing to finally seize its greatest and most elusive prize, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
And trainer Sakae Kunieda isn't discouraging such talk.
"It was the result I thought we could get and I'm happy she proved us right," Kunieda said. "I was nervous. I've lost my voice. Almond Eye can continue my dreams, so next we'll go to Europe. Our dream is to take her to the Arc."
If that comes to pass, there Almond Eye could be eyeballing none other than Enable -- the European wonder mare who not only has won the past two runnings of the Arc but also bounced right out of the 2018 win to capture the Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.
Kunieda also has floated the possibility Almond Eye could have a tune up at York in the north of England before the French showdown.
Dubai Gold Cup
Cross Counter conquered the Group 1 Melbourne Cup for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby last November. But he entered Saturday's $1.5 million Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup unraced since that triumph. No matter. With William Buick up, the 4-year-old Teofilo colt got the better of his stablemate, Ispolini, in the final 100 meters, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Now he looks a risk to trainer John Gosden's hopes for a second sweep of the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers' Million with Stradivarius.
"I'm delighted with the result," Appleby said of Cross Counter's first-up effort. "I just spoke to High Highness (Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum) and we said we'd let the dust settle before we come up with a plan but we cold maybe go for the Gold Cup (at Royal Ascot). But we'll sit back and enjoy today before deciding where we go."
Dubai Sheema Classic
Old Persian, another budding 4-year-old star for Godolphin, soundly whipped a top-shelf international field in the $6 million Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. Cheval Grand, the 2017 Japan Cup winner, chased him down the stretch but settled for second. Two of Ireland's finest, Hunting Horn and Magic Wand, finished fifth and sixth.
It was the first Group 1 win for the Dubawi colt. He proved his mettle however, with victories in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York -- the latter at the expense of Cross Counter.
"I have to give credit to the horse," said jockey William Buick. "He finds his own passage and, from 3 to 4, he's really improved and he has a big turn of foot now."
Coal Front backed up Grade III victories at Gulfstream Park and Oaklawn Park in his two previous outings with a terrific, come-from-behind win over Heavy Metal in the $1.5 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile. Coal Front, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Dubai first-timer Jose Ortiz, now is poised to make some noise during the second half of the year in the sprint/dirt mile division.
"He has had some health issues, on and off, but always had a ton of talent," co-owner Sol Kumin said of Coal Front, a 5-year-old Stay Thirsty ridgling. The Godolphin Mile was just his ninth career start. "Todd has done a great job with him."
Dubai Golden Shaheen
X Y Jet, twice a runner-up in the $2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, finally broke through Saturday, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Matera Sky after a race-long battle with that rival. Imperial Hint was third.
The future may have more limit for X Y Jet, who now is 7 and has had repeated physical issues, including one that kept him out of the 2018 Golden Shaheen. "Defeat in the past has made this victory that much sweeter," said Brian Trump, representing the gelding's owners, Rockingham Ranch. "He's just such a special horse.
Al Quoz Sprint
Yet another of Godolphin's stars, Blue Point, overwhelmed a dozen rivals in the $2 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at 6 furlongs on the turf. Making steady progress down the center of the course, the 5-year-old son of Shamardal won by 1 1/4 lengths over a pair of Peter Miller-trained Americans, Belvoir Bay and Stormy Liberal.
Blue Point was a gate scratch on World Cup night in 2018 but rebounded to win the Group 1 King's Stand at Royal Ascot and finish third in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
Asked whether Blue Point would be pointed toward a Royal Ascot repeat, Appleby responded, "We all know it's a tough game. But if he turns up fit and well, he is going to be there to try and defend his crown in the King's Stand Stakes. I spoke to His Highness and we said that as long as he ran well here that would be the plan."
The UAE Derby
Plus Que Parfait's vicory in Saturday's $2.5 million Group 2 UAE Derby boosts him into the Kentucky Derby with positive momentum. See Kentucky Derby roundup for more.