Kentucky Derby 2019 Radar: Walking Thunder stars in Dubai

January 12, 2019 12:51pm
Kentucky Derby 2019 Radar: Walking Thunder stars in Dubai
Photo: Dubai Racing Club

The Phoenix Ladies Syndicate, an offshoot of the Phoenix Thoroughbreds group that campaigns Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski, is right to have some Triple Crown race dreams of its own after Thursday’s $100,000 UAE 2000 Guineas Trial.

Walking Thunder moved his record to 3-for-3 in the most impressive fashion, showing gate speed from the outside and No. 15 post position, stalking the pace and taking over as they turned for home.

The Violence colt went on to win by nine lengths at Meydan, setting him up to continue on toward the March 30 UAE Derby (G2), which awards 2019 Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the Top.4 finishers.

“He’s a different class horse,” said trainer Ahmed bin Harmash. “…We are trying to get to the UAE Derby with him. He’s doing very well and has trained very well. He ran a great race. Congratulations to this new group of owners. We weren’t worried about the (draw). He’s a horse who runs fast from the gate and it didn’t scare us that much. It looks like he can travel the Derby distance.”

Bin Harmash also conditions for Phoenix Ladies the 3-year-old Superior, another winner during his juvenile season at Meydan who could point toward races such as the 2000 Guineas (G2) on Feb. 7 and UAE Derby.

Walking Thunder, a Florida-bred purchased for $42,000, was off at 3-1 on the U.S. tote Thursday. His victory came at the cost of Royal Marine, a Group 1 winner for Godolphin on the turf who broke while odds-on. Royal Marine raced wide to avoid some of the kickback but did so at one pace, finishing fourth.

Christophe Soumillon, who rode Royal Marine, said his mount "
got off to a slow start and he finished well in the end. He needed that run.”

As for the winner, jockey Connor Beasley said he let Walking Thunder “find his feet” from the outside post. Kicking away from the gate, the colt crossed over all but one in the field, the pace-setting Power Link.

“As soon as I asked him off the bend there, he felt like he put it to bed in two strides, to be honest,” Beasley said. “He’s just so very professional in his mannerisms — the way he goes to the start, just everything. I haven’t rode many good horses, but to me he feels like a good horse.”

Walking Thunder completed a one-turn mile on the Meydan dirt in 1:38.43.

“Off that, I’d dare say,” said Beasley, asked if the horse can go even farther. “Obviously it was a bit of a question mark these two runs previous. Today he settled a lot better just having a bit more of a rein. I’d say…he never stopped, and I couldn’t pull him up after the line.”


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About the Derby Radar

New for the 2019 Kentucky Derby trail, Horse Racing Nation's Derby Radar seeks to identify promising maiden, allowance and even stakes winners who could target points-paying preps next out. We'll cover the buzz horses, of course, then using a systematic approach based on past years' Derby contenders identify other talented colts moving up the ladder.

Did we miss one? Email editor Jonathan Lintner ( if you know of a horse that should be on the radar.

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