Saturday, January 8, 2011

Excerpts from Ch 30 of The Dancer - "No Ordinary Joe"


Dubai Millennium - another National Hero

Photo from Godolphin “This horse has great depth through his heart. Look at those eyes, you can see his heart through his eyes.”


The pricey ($3,300,000) yearling Shareef Dancer lived up to his expectations winning the Irish Derby and being declared Champion 3 Year Old Colt of England and Ireland for Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Marktoum before being syndicated for $40,000,000. Shareef Dancer would have been considered a so, so stallion in Europe but for one exceptional grandson. Dubai Millennium started life as Yaazer, Arabic for ‘Ordinary Joe’ but he proved he was anything but. In 1998, the Sheik asked trainer David Loden, which of his two year olds had the best chance of winning the Dubai World Cup in 2000 and before he raced his first race, Yaazer was renamed Dubai Millennium. Dubai Millenium was out of Seeking The Gold and the Shareef Dancer mare, Colorado Dancer (1986) ($203,389 10-3-1-2). Colorado Dancer was a French Grade 2 stakes winner before retiring as a brood mare for the Sheik’s Godolphin Stables and providing the Sheik with his dream come true colt in Dubai Millennium (formerly Yaazer). It had become his number one priority to breed a winner of his own Dubai World Cup and Dubai Millennium looked like his best shot.

Dubai Millennium launched his racing career in style winning the South Norfolk Caterers Maiden Stakes at Yarmouth in England by 5 easy lengths on October 28,1998. Frankie Dettori who rode Dubai Millennium in all but his 10th and last race eased up at the finish in his maiden victory, his only race as a two year old. Dubai Millennium won his next two starts as a three year leading up to the 1999 Epsom Derby which would be his first big challenge. At Doncaster he won the Doncaster Racecourse Sponsorship Club Conditions Stakes by 9 lengths on March 5 and followed that with a 3 ½ length victory at Goodwood on May 18 in the Listed Compass UK Leisure Predominant Stakes. Dubai Millennium would suffer the only defeat of his career in his next start, the Epsom Derby, finishing ninth in his only race over 10 furlongs. The consensus was … the distance was just too much for him.

Dubai Millennium followed up the Derby loss with convincing victories in the French Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffitte (by 3 lengths) on July 18 and the Group 1 Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jaques La Mrois at Deauville (by 2 ½ lengths) on August 15. Dubai Millennium finished his three-year-old campaign with a convincing 6-length victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on September 26, prompting the Sheik to say Dubai Millennium was the greatest Godolphin horse of all time, ahead of the likes of Lammtarra, Daylami and Swain.

In his first start at four, Dubai Millennium won on the dirt in the Listed Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum Challenge Round III at Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba (by 4 ½ lengths) on March 2,2000. All his victories before that had been on the turf. It was a track record for the distance but it was just a tune up race for the upcoming Dubai World Cup.

On March 25 Dubai Millennium lived up to his name, not only winning the world’s richest race but, winning it in such convincing fashion (by 6 lengths) he was being compared to Nijinsky and even Secretariat. It was another new course record for Nad Al Sheba and a new world’s record time for the distance. It might be as tempting to compare him to the only once beaten Man O’ War who set many track and world records on his way to annihilating his competition. Just like Man O’ War, Dubai Millennium not only won easy (a combined 48 lengths in his 9 victories), setting track and world records along the way but he also won on both dirt and turf racing in both clockwise and counter clockwise directions.

The plan, that was two years in the making, for the four year old (much longer for the Sheik) had been realized. Dubai Millennium won his last race on June 21, 2000 at Ascot in the Prince of Wales Stakes. Once again, Dubai Millennium won in convincing fashion by 8 lengths, defeating the horse he shared International Champion miler status with the year before, the French Sendawar. Sendawar actually went off as the favorite in the race. Jerry Bailey was in the saddle for the Prince of Wales, substituting for the Dettori who was injured in an aircraft crash. Dettori made a surprise visit to Ascot to witness the race and had this to say after it “He’s unbelievable, here you have a champion miler (Sendawar) trying to follow Dubai Millennium and he hasn’t got the speed to keep up with him. It brings tears to my eyes – I have never been so nervous in my life. Dubai Millennium is the best horse I’ve ridden – he’s exceptional”. You wonder how Dettori would have felt if he was in the saddle on not just a spectator.

There was only one challenge left for Dubai Millennium and that was to face the European Champion Montjeu who was winning everything else in Europe. There was even talk of a match race but certainly the two would hook up somewhere before their racing careers were over. When asked about Montjeu the Sheik said “Why didn’t he come to Ascot last month? Montjeu is most welcome to take us on in the Breeders Cup and I will even pay his entry fee”. It never happened, on a workout in August at Newmarket, Dubai Millennium fractured a bone in a hind leg that would end his brilliant racing career.

Dubai Millennium won 9 of his 10 starts earning 2,752,610 pounds or approximately $4,300,000 US. He was the Co-Champion Three-Year-Old Miler of Europe. At four he was the Timeform Horse of the Year, Champion Older Horse of Europe and Best Middle Distance Horse. He was the Emirates Racing Association Nashwan award winning Horse of the Year and Dirt Horse of the Year.

Dubai Millennium retired to Stallion duty for Godolphin and covered 65 mares in his first season before tragedy struck the Champion. After a weeklong battle with Grass Sickness and complications from two emergency surgeries, he had to be put down. It was a devastating blow for the Sheik, Godolphin and the entire sport of thoroughbred racing.

There is a life size statue of Dubai Millennium winning the Dubai World Cup at the Godolphin Gallery in Dubai. It was modeled by, Madame Tussauds. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum had an incredible love for the horse and had many quotes to describe him but this was my favorite “This horse has great depth through his heart. Look at those eyes, you can see his heart through his eyes.”

In his all too brief career as a stallion Dubai Millennium had success. With the 65 mares he covered he produced 16 winners and several stakes winners. His most successful progeny was the colt Dubawi ($1,256,932 8-5-1-0) who was forced into retirement early after suffering an injury to a hind ligament. He was undefeated as a two-year-old, winning the Dunnes Stores National Stakes in Ireland (G1). At three he won the Prix Jaques Le Marois like his sire and the Irish Two Thousand Guineas and placed in the Epsom Derby and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Dubawi now stands at the Sheik’s Darley Farm in Newmarket for a fee of 25,000 pounds. It will be interesting to follow his offspring.

Link to great photos and videos of Dubai Millennium from Godolphin

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