When Godolphin Racing's Thunder Snow (IRE) starts in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) Sept. 29 at Belmont Park, it could mark an important step toward a historic run in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Thunder Snow has shipped to the United States with the goal of becoming the fifth horse to post victories in both the Dubai World Cup Sponsored By Emirates Airline (G1) and Breeders' Cup Classic, and the first to win the two races in the same season. A sweep of the two lucrative races run at 1 1/4 miles would also make Thunder Snow the first horse based outside the U.S. to win both races.
The first horse to sweep the two races was Cigar, who won the 1995 Breeders' Cup Classic and then secured the inaugural Dubai World Cup. He was followed by Pleasantly Perfect, winner of the 2003 Classic and 2004 World Cup; Curlin, winner of the 2007 Classic and 2008 World Cup; and most recently Arrogate in the 2016 Classic and 2017 World Cup.
Previous horses to win the Dubai World Cup and then start in the Breeders' Cup Classic in the same season include Silver Charm, who posted a nose victory over Swain (IRE) at Nad Al Sheba before finishing second to Awesome Again in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic. Swain finished third in that memorable Classic at Churchill.
In 1999, Shadwell Stable homebred Almutawakel (GB) won the Dubai World Cup over the likes of Malek (CHI) and Victory Gallop before finishing fifth in that year's Breeders' Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park, which was won by Cat Thief.
Saeed bin Suroor saddled Almutawakel in Dubai and the son of Machiavellian was transferred to Mark Hennig for conditioning in the U.S. He prepped for the Breeders' Cup with a runner-up finish in the Woodward Stakes (G1), beaten a nose by River Keen (IRE), before finishing third to that rival in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
While Curlin won both races in different years, he also had an opportunity to sweep the races in 2008 but finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic on the former synthetic surface at Santa Anita Park.
The most recent horse with an opportunity to win the two races in the same season was two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, who rolled to a 3 3/4-length score in 2016 at Meydan over Mubtaahij (IRE) before yielding to the late charge of Arrogate in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Arrogate then went on to win the 2017 Dubai World Cup.
For Thunder Snow, the Classic would mark a return to Churchill, where he bucked at the start of the 2017 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and was pulled up early. Upon returning to Europe, the son of Helmet (AUS) placed second in the Tattersalls Irish Two Thousand Guineas (G1) and won the Prix Jean Prat (G1).
This story originally ran in the Sept. 28 edition of BloodHorse Daily as an entry to the regular column The Challenge, presented by Darby Dan Farm, which runs each Friday in BH Daily.