Thunder Snow trains at Churchill Downs prior to the 2017 Kentucky Derby

Thunder Snow trains at Churchill Downs prior to the 2017 Kentucky Derby

Coady Photography

Thunder Snow to Make 4-Year-Old Debut Thursday in Dubai

Two-time group 1 winner Thunder Snow started in last year's Kentucky Derby.

Two-time group 1 winner Thunder Snow is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut Jan. 11 in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 presented by Longines Gents Master Collection (G2) at Meydan Racecourse.

The Maktoum Challenge R1 is the featured event on a seven-race card (one race is for purebred Arabians) to open the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival meeting at Meydan.

Thunder Snow won group 1 races, both before and after the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (G1), where he was pulled up soon after the start on the off track at Churchill Downs that was listed as wet, fast, and sealed. 

While Thunder Snow didn't handle that surface, he has met plenty of other racing challenges. At 2, the son of Helmet won the Criterium International (G1) in France and last winter at Meydan he punched his Kentucky Derby ticket with wins on the dirt in the UAE Two Thousand Guineas sponsored by District One Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City (G3) and the UAE Derby sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2).

After the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Snow bounced right back to earn a classic placing when he finished second in the Tattersalls Irish Two Thousand Guineas (G1). He later earned his second group 1 win in the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly, defeating other 3-year-olds in that July race at about a mile.

On Thursday Godolphin's Thunder Snow will face an expected seven other rivals in the 1,600-meter (about a mile) dirt test in his first start since Oct. 21, when he finished last in the QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) at Ascot.

"We have given him a nice break since Ascot when the ground was very soft and did not suit him," said trainer Saeed bin Suroor who will try for his ninth Maktoum Challenge R1 victory. "He has been working well recently and we are really looking forward to running him on Thursday. We know he likes the Meydan surface, so that is not a concern and we are very happy with him."

Trainer Salem bin Ghadayer has both Heavy Metal (post 2) and Long River (post 1), the latter a winner of the 2,000-meter Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) on Super Saturday in March of 2017. Royston Ffrench rides Long River with Mickael Barzalona opting to ride Heavy Metal, successful in the listed Dubai Creek Mile Sponsored By Lincoln Continental in December over the same track and distance as Thursday's race. 

"Both are in great form and proven under these conditions," bin Ghadayer said. "Heavy Metal has had the benefit of a run, which he won, this season and Long River is fresh and well after a nice break."

Long River is an 8-year-old son of two-time leading sire A.P. Indy, who was pensioned in 2011. A.P. Indy had 15 starters in 2017 and Long River was the lone stakes winner from that group, whose 10 winners last year ranged in ages from 6-9.

Also on Thursday's card, Godolphin's Benbatl heads the Singspiel Stakes presented by Longines Ladies Master Collection (G3) as the son of Dubawi makes his first start since a disappointing effort in Haydock's 32Red Mile (G3) in September. The Singspiel, an 1,800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) turf race, has attracted 15 entries.