MULTIPLE Group 1 winner Thunder Snow is on course to defend his $12 million Dubai World Cup title on March 30. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor told Sky Sports the Godolphin runner could point to the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) on March 9 for his 5-year-old debut.

Thunder Snow finished second in that race a year ago before pulling away at Meydan to win the world’s richest horse race. He has never finished worse than second at the Dubai track, winning four of six races there.

His conditioner added the recently turned 5-year-old son of Helmet could return to the United States following the Dubai World Cup.

“He is doing good, but we are just giving him an easy time,” bin said. “He looks happy but we just want to give him a break between races as he had a few hard runs in America.

“In the Breeders’ Cup Classic they went like a sprint and not a mile-and-a-quarter race and he did well to finish third.”

Thunder Snow received a break following the Dubai World Cup last year and returned on turf in the Juddmonte International (G1) last August. He lost two shoes during the race and finished eighth.

With a race under him, Thunder Snow travelled stateside for the first time since the 2017 Kentucky Derby. He nearly won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park after following fast fractions set by Diversify, but lost by a neck when 45-1 shot Discreet Lover rallied on the outside.

Thunder Snow remained in the U.S. through the Breeders’ Cup and finished third in the Classic, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Accelerate.

Also on Dubai World Cup night, stablemate Benbatl will attempt to repeat in the Dubai Turf (G1).

A multiple Group 1 winner himself, Benbatl last ran second to Australian champion mare Winx in the Cox Plate (G1) Oct. 27. Bin Suroor said the 5-year-old could also run March 9 at Meydan prior to World Cup night.