Bin Suroor hopes for Thunder
Saeed bin Suroor has achieved plenty in his career but victory in the Kentucky Derby with Thunder Snow would almost rank as his proudest achievement.
But as the first leg of the American Triple Crown at Churchill Downs takes place so far from either of his bases in England or Dubai and the race is run on dirt against the best America has to offer, the odds are stacked against him.
In Thunder Snow, though, he has a horse proven on the surface, having won the UAE Derby.
He also boasts top-class European form as he won a Group One in France last October.
"I am very excited. I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time – to bring a horse with a big chance to run in the greatest race in America," the trainer told www.godolphin.com.
"Thunder Snow is a tough horse with a lot of class, which you need because the Kentucky Derby is a very, very tough race.
""He is the best horse we have ever sent (to the Derby).
"He was a Group One winner (on turf) in France before he won the UAE Derby on dirt at Meydan, beating a previously unbeaten Japanese champion.
"He has arrived fresh and healthy and I am very happy with him.
"Ideally, I would like him to take a good position, close to the pace and away from the kickback."
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Stall two should enable Christophe Soumillon to do just that.
Englishman Graham Motion has established himself as one of the leading trainers in the States and his Irish War Cry has leading credentials.
Motion said: "This horse is a little better on the outside. I think he's going to lay close.
"He's going to be handy. It gives him a cleaner trip. I didn't want to be stuck down on the inside. I don't think anybody does, because it just gets very tight.
"I feel like I can't really control anybody else's horse, but I want what's best for mine.
"I'm happy with my draw (stall 17). We'll just take it as it comes."
Mark Casse is responsible for Classic Empire and State Of Honor.
Casse said of the former: "He's ready. I've always said good horses win when everything goes their way, great horses win when nothing goes their way – and I think he's a great horse."
Of State Of Honor, Casse added: "He's a big, beautiful horse.
"He's also got a big, big heart. He tries every time.
"He has a legitimate chance, make no mistake about it. In any 20-horse field, he just needs a clean break."
Todd Pletcher is responsible for leading contender Always Dreaming, who won the Florida Derby on his last outing.
Pletcher said: "He's full of himself, he's feeling good.
"Ideally, I'd have liked to have been a little further out than stall five, but he won the Florida Derby from the four, so that says something.
"In the end, we're good with it."
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