The Feb. 8 Al Maktoum Challenge Round II sponsored by Gulf News (G2), featuring Thunder Snow, Heavy Metal, and Second Summer, is the marquee race as the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival hits the midway point at Meydan Racecourse.
The program also includes the UAE One Thousand Guineas sponsored by Friday. Thunder Snow's half sister, Winter Lightning, is prominent in that fixture. And a select group of sprinters, including Comicas and 12-year-old Reynaldothewizard, will try the Al Shindagha Sprint sponsored by gulfnews.com, a prep for the Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (G1) on the March 31 Dubai World Cup card.
The Challenge round has seven set to go 1,900 meters (about 1 3/16 miles) on the Meydan dirt course. Thunder Snow, a Helmet colt, will look to improve from a second place finish behind Heavy Metal Jan. 11 in his seasonal opener. Depending on his performance, the Godolphin runner, winner of last year's UAE Derby sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed al Naboodah Group (G2), could continue on the dirt toward the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) or return to the grass, where he ran with success in Europe after his misadventure in the 2017 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (G1) at Churchill Downs, when he bucked and was pulled up shortly after the start.
Heavy Metal, an 8-year-old Exceed and Excel gelding, finished eighth in last year's Godolphin Mile Sponsored By Meydan Sobha (G2), but returned to win his first two starts this season at Meydan. Trainer Doug Watson fields Second Summer, a 6-year-old Summer Bird gelding, the upset winner of last year's Godolphin Mile, who finished well up the track in his return Dec. 21.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rasheed al Maktoum's Godolphin team will be watching the One Thousand Guineas with a keen eye to see whether Thunder Snow's dam, Eastern Joy, has produced two good ones in a row. Her 2015 foal by Shamardal, Winter Lightning, finished second in her career debut Oct. 13 at Newmarket, then was put away for the winter. She returned to win by a nose going 1,400 meters Jan. 18 at Meydan, closing determinedly at the end, and now gets an additional 200 meters.
The competition includes the Watson-trained Rayya, the Tiz Wonderful filly who just missed holding the lead against Winter Lightning in their last outing. Godolphin has an outsider in Flora Sandes, a War Front filly out of the Galileo mare Aloof, who scored her first win Nov. 16 on the all-weather course at Chelmsford.
With TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Roy H and last year's winner, Mind Your Biscuits, both nominated to the Dubai Golden Shaheen, much attention will be focused on the Al Shindagha Sprint, which drew a field of seven.
Godolphin has the likely favorite in Comicas, a 5-year-old Distorted Humor gelding who was second behind Mind Your Biscuits in last year's Golden Shaheen. Reynaldothewizard finished eighth in that heat but certainly wasn't disgraced, finishing about three lengths adrift of Comicas. In his first start at age 12, the Speightstown gelding ran third.