A win in this Saturday’s famed Kentucky Derby for Godolphin’s Thunder Snow, a son of Helmet, would establish a series of historic milestones.
Firstly, he would be the first horse since Canonero II in 1971 to win the Derby after making their prior start outside of North America.
Secondly, he would be the first ever winner of the big race for Godolphin’s owner His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
And, perhaps most relevant to Australian breeders, success would represent the first win for a horse by an Australian bred sire in 64 years.
The 1953 Kentucky Derby was won by Dark Star, a son of the Australian bred stallion Royal Gem.
Coincidentally, Royal Gem, like Darley’s Northwood Park based Helmet, also won the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas.
Thunder Snow already has an impressive race track record. He secured a Group 1 title as a two-year-old when winning the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud last October.
He then travelled to Dubai in the Northern Hemisphere winter where he convinced Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed of his superior dirt track credentials.
After easily winning the UAE Guineas on debut at Meydan, he then won the US$2 million UAE Derby over 1900 metres on Dubai World Cup raceday in March.
Thunder Snow’s trainer Saeed bin Suroor rates the three-year-old colt very highly.
“He is a big, strong colt, who is improving all of the time and acts on dirt, and we are looking forward to seeing him take on the best three-year-olds in America,” Suroor said.
“It is not easy to send a horse to the Kentucky Derby until you know there is a horse who has something there, has class. So far, our horse is doing really well.”
And if Thunder Snow were to pull off a historic victory, no doubt the worldwide Godolphin operation would send the colt Downunder. While that journey would be unlikely for racing purposes, a spot in the Darley Australia stallion barn would be guaranteed.
Meanwhile the colt’s sire, the three-time Group 1 winning Helmet, has continued on his winning ways in his own breeding career.
In Australia, he already has Group winners Archives and Limestone and stakes placed horses Igitur, Coppergate and Malaise. Add to that a band of talented winners including Wednesday’s debutant two-year-old victor at Warwick Farm, the Godolphin homebred Barbecue.
“Helmet has proven very quickly through the deeds of Thunder Snow, who is from his first northern hemisphere crop, that he is capable of siring an elite horse,” said Darley’s Victorian General Manager Andy Makiv.
“He is showing all the signs that he has a long and successful career ahead of him as a stallion.”
The Kentucky Derby will be televised in Australia on Sky Racing 2 at 8.46am on Sunday, May 7.