Pletcher’s Master Plan worth keeping in mind for the Belmont after UAE run

Thunder Snow (blue colours) just gets the better of Epicharis in the UAE Derby at Meydan on Saturday, with Master Plan (2) and Lancaster Bomber (3) staying on behind. Photo: Frank Sorge/

Horses trained in Britain, Japan, America and Ireland dominated the UAE Derby on Saturday, and the winner now leads the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings. But how valuable is the form? James Willoughby, who is assessing each of the Derby trials using the tools available to him via the TRC Global Rankings algorithm, gives his verdict.

Trial number: 18 of 27
TRC trial rank: #7
Trial name: UAE Derby
Grade: 2
Our Grade: 2
Course: Meydan
Date: March 25, 2017
Distance: 9.5f
Going: Muddy
Winner: Thunder Snow
Winner Expected RPR: 114.9
Winner Actual RPR: 115
Winning Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor (TRC Global Ranking: #11)
Winning Jockey: Christophe Soumillon (#5)
Winning Owner: Godolphin (#2)
Winning Sire: Helmet (#97)


This was a classy win by the G1-winning Thunder Snow (Racing Post Ratings 115 here, compared with 119 at best) who was five wide on the first turn and three wide on the home turn. He has a high action and doesn’t appear particularly well balanced to be running on dirt; neither did he help his cause by jinking right in the straight under a strong drive from Christophe Soumillon.

A review of the video below will help the reader decide the likely cause of this waywardness. Is it possible something caught his eye, or could his jockey have done more to keep him balanced?

Thunder Snow and runner-up Epicharis, winner of the Hyacinth Stakes in Japan, are eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby, but the latter is unlikely to ship from Japan because of tricky quarantine restrictions. For his part, Thunder Snow is a probable runner, but he will have to run a lot faster than this to prevail. According to Beyer figures – which now cover racing in the UAE - the time was four lengths slower than some of the U.S. colts, and that looks hard to argue with.

Though this race was just half a furlong short of the Derby trip, Thunder Snow appeals a little vulnerable at the distance. Third-placed Master Plan (RPR 111), trained by Todd Pletcher, was bearing down on the first two approaching the line and could be worth remembering for the Belmont, as all he does is keep going.

The Racing Post results chart also reports how the fourth-placed Lancaster Bomber – second to his Aidan O’Brien-trained stablemate Churchill in last October’s G1 Dewhurst Stakes – did very well to reach his final placing (fourth) after missing the break.

Thunder Snow does deserve extra credit for navigating the officially muddy surface. He ran fourth in the Dewhurst and second in the G1 Racing Post Trophy last year before winning the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud by five lengths. That came on soft turf, but those are different conditions to a wet dirt-track and this colt may improve again on an artificial surface.

For now, however, it seems likely that there will be better, stronger stayers in the line-up at Churchill Downs. He is still a worthy challenger for Godolphin.

Read James Willoughby’s previous Derby trial analyses

1. Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (Mastery)
2. Jerome (El Areeb)
3. Sham Stakes (Gormley)
4. Lecomte Stakes (Guest Suite)
5. Holy Bull (Irish War Cry)
6. Withers (El Areeb)
7. Robert B. Lewis (Royal Mo)
8. Swale Stakes (Favorable Outcome)
9. Sam F. Davis (McCraken)
10. San Vicente (Iliad)
11. Southwest Stakes (One Liner)
12. Risen Star (Girvin)
13. Gotham (J Boys Echo)
14. Fountain of Youth (Gunnevera)
15. San Felipe (Mastery)
16. Tampa Bay Derby (Tapwrit)
17. Rebel Stakes (Malagacy)

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