Thunder Snow set for handy position from gate two
Godolphin's Kentucky Derby contender Thunder Snow has been drawn close to the rail in gate two of a maximum 20-runner field for Saturday's $2 million contest at Churchill Downs, where he will race on the anti-bleeding medication Lasix for the first time.
Trainer Saeed Bin Suroor, who had been hoping for a draw nearer the middle, reacted to the news by suggesting Christophe Soumillon would have to take a fairly prominent position on the UAE Derby victor.
"We’re happy with that," said Bin Suroor. “We need to be handy in the race, in a good position close to the pace and away from the kickback. The horse has a good turn of foot and he can be there and kick readily and that is the plan.
"He has arrived fresh and healthy and I am very happy with him," the trainer added. "He travelled over well and hasn't lost any condition."
Thunder Snow will become the tenth horse to carry Godolphin's famous royal blue silks in the 'Run for the Roses', their previous best effort coming in 2015 with fourth-placed Frosted, who was trained in the US by Kiaran McLaughlin.
From seven previous runners, Bin Suroor has never done better than China Visit's sixth place in 2000. "I am very excited," added Bin Suroor, speaking at Churchill Downs.
"The good thing about this horse is he handled the dirt really well. I talked to his work rider and he’s so happy with him and that’s good for Saturday. The horse was doing really well in Dubai before he came here but it is not easy to send a horse to the Kentucky Derby unless you know he has the class. I know it’s a tough race, the best horses in the world, but our horse has the class."
A 16-1 chance with British-based bookmakers, Thunder Snow is 20-1 for Derby glory on the Churchill Downs indicative morning line, where last year's juvenile champion Classic Empire is 4-1 favourite.
Winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby three weeks ago, the Breeders' Cup winner will break from gate 14 for the Tepin team of trainer Mark Casse and jockey Julien Leparoux. "It’s a good spot," Casse said. "A couple of key contenders are outside of us, which is kind of nice."
Those 'key contenders' include McCraken (drawn 15) and Irish War Cry (17), whose trainer Graham Motion – a Derby winner in 2011 with Animal Kingdom - said the gate might give his Wood Memorial winner a "cleaner trip". He added: "I didn't want to be stuck down on the inside. I don't think anybody does because it just gets very tight."
Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming, one of three runners for Todd Pletcher, will break from gate five under John Velazquez. "Ideally, I'd have liked to have been a little farther out, but he won the Florida Derby from the four, so that says something," said Pletcher. "In the end, we’re good with it."
Generally speaking, the inside and outside posts are considered the gates to avoid; they went to outsiders Looking At Lee and Patch, drawn one and 20 respectively.
With a full field of 20, Gary Stevens' intended mount Royal Mo and Master Plan are named on the 'also-eligible' list. In effect, they are reserves who will get a run only in the event of a scratching from the main body of the field before the Friday morning deadline.
The Kentucky Derby, due to be shown live on ATR, is due off at 11.46pm BST on Saturday night.
>>Epicharis, the Japanese-trained three-year-old touched off by Thunder Snow in the UAE Derby, will be aimed at the Belmont Stakes on June 10, when he will be partnered by Christophe Lemaire.
The colt, unbeaten in four before Meydan, is eligible for a $1 million bonus on offer from the New York Racing Association if he wins the final leg of the US Triple Crown by virtue of his victory in the Hyacinth Stakes in Tokyo in February.
Kentucky Derby post-position draw
- Lookin At Lee Corey Lanerie
- Thunder Snow Christophe Soumillon
- Fast And Accurate Channing Hill
- Untrapped Ricardo Santana
- Always Dreaming John Velazquez
- State Of Honor Jose Lezcano
- Girvin Mike Smith
- Hence Florent Geroux
- Irap Mario Gutierrez
- Gunnevera Javier Castellano
- Battle Of Midway Flavien Prat
- Sonneteer Kent Desormeaux
- J Boys Echo Luis Saez
- Classic Empire Julien Leparoux
- McCraken Brian Hernandez
- Tapwrit Jose Ortiz
- Irish War Cry Rajiv Maragh
- Gormley Victor Espinoza
- Practical Joke Joel Rosario
- Patch Tyler Gaffalione
Also eligible: Royal Mo and Master Plan