Ever-mercurial Godolphin star Thunder Snow chose to shine by a leisurely neck over North America in the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 across near 1 1/4 miles of Meydan dirt as the Dubai World Cup Carnival hit the five-meet half pole Thursday. Round 1 Challenge winner Heavy Metal was a heavily hooved four lengths back in third.

The multiple Group 1-winning 4-year-old son of Helmet tracked leaders North America and Heavy Metal in third throughout the race, then easily took the lead as Christophe Soumillon pushed the button 200 meters from the finish.

“He was the best horse in the race and I rode him accordingly,” explained Soumillon of his tracking ride. “His stamina was never an issue. His two rivals are quick horses who had more early speed. I think his class really shows on dirt.”

About his nature, Soumillon added “He’s very funny because he knows the big video screen here in the straight. Last year he glanced at it 250 meters from the line and today he didn’t. “That’s good progress,” joked the rider.

Thunder Snow has now won three of his four starts on Meydan dirt, only coming up short in this year’s Challenge Round 1, finishing second.

“I don’t think the trip suited Thunder Snow last time when he ran over the mile,” explained trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “We will move him up to the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge on Super Saturday and make a decision where to go after that.”

The March 31 Dubai World Cup seems the obvious target, though an appearance at Royal Ascot in June will also be in line. Two previous winners of the Challenge Round 2 went on to win the Dubai World Cup, Godolphin runners Moon Ballad (2003) and Prince Bishop (2014).

It was another good night for Godolphin as Thunder Snow’s half-sister Winter Lightning (both out of Eastern Joy) bolted to a two-length win over Rayya in the card-opening 1000 Guineas for 3-year-old fillies over a dirt mile. Expressly was another 2 1/2 lengths off to complete the top three.

“She’s got everything,” marveled winning jockey Pat Cosgrove. “She looks sharper and more grow up and she put the race away when I asked to do it.”

“She’s a filly for the future,” offered bin Suroor. “She looks better this year. I think she can go further now. So, we will aim her for 9 furlongs in the Group 3 UAE Oaks on March 1 and plan from there.”

In the third evening feature, Doug Watson-trained My Catch caught the line first by a healthy four lengths over favored Comicas in the six-furlong Al Shindagha. A mere head back in third was 12-year-old ageless wonder Reynaldothewizard. The most popular horse in Dubai was not quite up to the winner’s circle in the dirt sprint, elevated this year to a Group 3 contest, but enjoyed another good run and will be headed for a possible farewell performance in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen on World Cup day.

“He truly is an amazing horse!” marveled trainer Satish Seemar. “He will now go straight to World Cup night.”

Watson enjoyed back-to-back wins when Street Of Dreams with Adrie De Vries aboard was 2 1/4 lengths more real than stable mate Galvanize in the preceding nine-furlong dirt handicap with Bois De Boulogne a neck arrears.

Hit The Bid hit the wire 1 3/4 lengths in advance of Dutch Masterpiece in the five-furlong turf sprint with Waady finishing out the top three another 3 1/4 lengths back.

Jockey De Vries collected a double on the night aboard Wasim, a half-length better than Godolphin’s Zaman in the seven furlong turf sprint with Centenary Diamond collecting the bronze another length behind.

Godolphin closed the evening with three in the top three as bin Suroor’s Leshlaa bettered Charlie Appleby’s Blair House by 4 1/4 lengths and Appleby’s Banksea in the money by another 3/4 length.

Thursday’s card features the $250,000 Group 3 UAE 2000 on dirt as the season rounds the far turn.

Nominations for the $10 million March 31 Dubai World Cup have been announced. Among the racing elite were a pair of Bob Baffert horses, West Coast and Hoppertunity, Japanese star Gold Dream, Forever Unbridled and Gunnevera, along with Talismanic, already committed to making the switch from turf to dirt for the big race. Australian super-mare Winx was nominated for the $6 million Group 1 Dubai Turf, but the 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry has never raced outside Australia and is considered unlikely to make the trip up over from Down Under.