Godolphin baffled by Thunder Snow's Kentucky performance
Godolphin chief executive John Ferguson could offer no explanation for Thunder Snow's antics as the Dubai team's Kentucky Derby ambitions were smashed almost as soon as the starting gate opened on Saturday in dramatic – and mysterious – circumstances.
In what Ferguson described as "one of the most extraordinary things any of us have ever seen", the UAE Derby winner Thunder Snow put in a mini-bucking bronco routine in the first 100 yards before being pulled up by the hapless Christophe Soumillon.
"The horse is fine and it was just one of these things – they're not machines," said Ferguson, speaking at Newmarket on Sunday.
"He trained so well out there and he's a beautiful character at home. He jumped plunging out of the stalls and was pulled up after 50 yards – you can imagine a two-year-old doing that having his first start but a horse who's won Group races at Meydan in Dubai and won in France and England? Everyone will have a theory but we'll probably never know what happened."
No injury came to light in the initial veterinary examinations, while suggestions of some kind of equipment problem were never confirmed.
"I don’t know what happened at the start," commented Soumillon after the race, while chief Godolphin workrider Daragh O'Donohoe said he was "totally dumbstruck".
Saeed Bin Suroor had said beforehand Thunder Snow was Godolphin's best-ever chance of Kentucky success.
"We will closely monitor him over the next 24 hours to ensure that he is okay – our first priority is his welfare," said the disappointed trainer. "We gave it our best – the team were amazing but it just wasn’t to be."
Unless some more tangible explanation emerges, it is perhaps worth recalling that Thunder Snow's sire, the brilliant Australian performer Helmet, was not entirely straightforward. He almost threw away the Group 1 Champagne Stakes at Randwick in April 2011 when he veered away from the whip.