Sue Montgomery: ‘Ill-starred but brilliant’ [H&H VIP]

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  • One of the most charismatic performers to emerge this century was Dubai Millennium, who lived up to the name given to him by his owner-breeder Sheikh Mohammed by turning the Dubai World Cup in 2000 into a rout under the dark desert skies. He produced a stunning performance that night at Nad El Sheba and gave a repeat three months later in the June sunshine at Royal Ascot in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

    But the magnificent horse was as ill-starred as he was brilliant. In August that year his career came to a premature end when he fractured a leg on the gallops. And less than a year later, after a short first season at stud, so did his life. He contracted grass sickness and could not be saved, and was euthanased in late April 2001.

    He left 56 foals, of whom 35 made the track. The best were the top-class Dubawi and the very smart Echo Of Light, who became his only two stallion sons, both under the Sheikh’s Darley banner.

    Dubawi, of course, has picked up his sire’s baton with a vengeance; he is one of the best stallions in the world, with 16 Group One winners worldwide, including this year’s 2000 Guineas hero Night Of Thunder. Like his sire, however, Echo Of Light met an untimely end, breaking a leg irreparably in a paddock accident at the age of 10, after four seasons at stud.

    For both horses, the Flat was the focus for their progeny. But as with any Flat sires, a proportion will filter through to jumping. However, not one of Dubai Millennium’s limited editions ever did.

    After the horse’s death, Sheikh Mohammed made a point of buying nearly every one of his offspring he did not already own, including Echo Of Light for £1 million as a yearling.

    An illustrious grandsire

    At Wincanton on Saturday, however unlikely the surroundings, there was a flicker of a reminder of those wonder days at Nad Al Sheba and Ascot when successive races went to five-year-old grandsons of Dubai Millennium.

    The Young Master, by Echo Of Light, romped away with the Badger Ales Trophy (even if under investigation, see p78), and Purple Bay, by Dubawi, took the Grade Two Elite Hurdle. It is not unusual that sons of the same sire should be responsible for the winners of races on the same card; but, admittedly, prolific sires such as Sadler’s Wells and Alleged — who did so more than once over the weekend — have infinitely greater opportunities.

    Purple Bay was bred by the Sheikh with high aspirations, his dam Velvet Lady being a Nashwan half-sister to his 2003 Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad, the pair out of Velvet Moon. But Velvet Lady never bred a stakes winner on the Flat and Purple Bay never raced in that sphere. He has taken to his alternative career well though, as did one of Velvet Moon’s half-brothers Buena Vista, twice a winner of the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival. Purple Bay is Dubawi’s third Graded winner, after Hisaabaat and Dodging Bullets.

    The Young Master, bred by Brendan Boyle, is from a less distinguished distaff background, although his third dam Heike is a half-sister to Group One-winning juvenile Eva Luna. His dam Fine Frenzy was moderate both on the Flat (winner of a 5f maiden) and when she tried her luck over hurdles (second in a seller). The Young Master is her last foal and only winner. He has scored twice on the Flat and three times over hurdles and now, although he is unlikely to keep his latest prize as he was not qualified to run, has shown himself to be a markedly progressive young chaser.

    This column was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (13 November 2014)