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‘Snow’ fit and ready for return clash at Ascot

J A McGrath

Thunder Snow, the globetrotting star of Godolphin Stables, is ready to do battle again with his formidable rival Churchill in Tuesday's G1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He is set to lead Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor's team into Britain's most glamorous and important five-day race meeting.

No three-year-old trained in Europe has embarked on such a demanding international campaign in the first half of the season as Thunder Snow.

The Helmet colt recorded the most courageous of wins in the G2 UAE Derby at Meydan in March before his disappointing trip to Churchill Downs, where he was pulled up after 50 yards in the G1 Kentucky Derby.

He then bounced back to finish second to Churchill, beaten two and a half lengths, in the G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas at Curragh.

If anything, Thunder Snow seems to be thriving on the rigours of the campaign, but Saeed is not underestimating the task ahead. He has the greatest respect for the opposition this week.

"Thunder Snow tries hard in his races, but Churchill beat him comfortably at the Curragh, and that colt is again the one to beat.

"He is our best horse, and he has done very well after coming back home from Ireland. He will run well, but it is a very tough race," he added.

Saeed is awaiting the arrival in Britain of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed before finalising his Ascot plans. "I will discuss all the horses with Sheikh Mohammed first," the trainer said.

Beautiful Romance in Thursday's G1 Ascot Gold Cup will no doubt be a subject for discussion between owner and trainer.

The New Approach mare, fifth in last year's G2 Hardwicke Stakes, finished an excellent seventh in the G1 Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington, Australia, in November before winning the G2 Zipping Classic, over 2,400m (a mile and a half) at Sandown (Australia).

She then travelled to Dubai where she won the G3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy, over 2,800m (a mile and three quarters) and finished second to Vazirabad in the two-mile Gold Cup.

"She hasn't been showing me a lot in the mornings here at Newmarket," Saeed said. "She's a very good two-mile filly, we know that, but I want to see something in her next piece of serious work," he pointed out.

Saeed said that plans for two of his G1 Derby runners, Benbatl (5th at Epsom) and Dubai Thunder (11th), depend on weather and ground. "Ideally, we want some rain for them," he pointed out.