As the end result became clear, the roar of the crowd escalated, smiles brightened up faces, and programs were thrown in the air in celebration.
On a banner night for the home team in Godolphin blue, Thunder Snow provided the exclamation point with the racing operation's seventh victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline at Meydan March 31.
After an unexpected poor break from likely pacesetter North America, the 2017 UAE Derby Sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group winner broke well from post 10 and briefly dueled with heavy favorite West Coast before he cleared and got over to the rail. Although West Coast was never far behind on the outside, late in the second turn the favorite couldn't keep up.
With a quick kick at the top of the lane under jockey Christophe Soumillon, Thunder Snow opened up a clear advantage on the field and extended it to the wire to win by 5 3/4 lengths and finish the 2,000-meter (about 1 1/4 miles) race in a track-record time of 2:01.38.
The absence of North America up near the pace had a significant impact on the race, as Thunder Snow got away with tepid 200-meter fractions of :25.73, :50.43, and 1:13.89.
"On the dirt with him, he usually doesn't have the speed for that," Soumillon said. "But today when I came to the turn, he changed (leads) perfectly and I had a good feeling that nobody could catch me at that time."
West Coast's jockey, Javier Castellano, got a similar impression at the quarter pole. As the rider got back to the walking ring in front of the Meydan grandstand, he looked down at West Coast's trainer, Bob Baffert, then shook his head and said, "He ran good. The other one—the other one was too good."
"I put the horse right next to him, to hook up with him (at the quarter pole), but (Thunder Snow) was best," Castellano said. "(Soumillon) saw me, he asked the horse, and he took off."
West Coast may not have been up to the task to take on Thunder Snow in the stretch, but kept on trying to the wire, where he edged stablemate Mubtaahij by a neck for second. Pavel and Forever Unbridled also loomed on the outside behind West Coast with 300 meters to run, but lacked any late punch to make up ground late.
"I wish he won the race, but sometimes you have to hook up with the best horses in the world, and that's why the race was so tough today," Castellano said. "The other horse was coming up, but my horse didn't get tired. He fought hard for second place."
Winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who claimed his eighth Dubai World Cup victory Saturday night, heaped praise on his jockey for taking control of the race when he got the opportunity.
"The winner is the jockey," bin Suroor said. "He made the horse win the race. We drew (post 10), but before the race I talked to him and said, 'He can be handy, but if he jumps, you can take the lead early, and you'll have a better chance to win the race.' He is the best of the best."
"In a race, you can't really predict anything," Soumillon added. "It just depends how 10 horses jump at the same time. ... I was a half-length in front of everyone and I knew I had to make an effort to hit the front and stay on the fence. When I saw nobody pushing on the inside, I was really surprised and quite happy, because I knew probably earned a few lengths there."
Another 1 3/4 lengths behind the Baffert pair came Pavel in fourth, followed by Forever Unbridled, Awardee, Furia Cruzada, Gunnevera, Talismanic, and North America, to complete the order of finish.
Thunder Snow has never finished worse than second at Meydan, where last year he won the UAE Derby after he took the UAE Two Thousand Guineas Sponsored By District One Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City.
This year he prepped for the World Cup in a series of starts at Meydan. He finished second in the Jan. 11 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 Presented By Longines Gents Master Collection, won the Feb. 8 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 Sponsored By Gulf News, and claimed the runner-up spot in the March 10 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Sponsored By Emirates Airline behind 5 1/4-length winner North America.