Obsession can take many forms, sometimes logical, sometimes less so and only time will tell whether Sheikh Mohammed's fixation with the offspring of Dubai Millennium is well-founded. Since his favourite and greatest horse's untimely death, he has made it his business to acquire as many as possible of the 28 colts and 28 fillies from the sole crop of the brilliant, ill-starred champion.
Either Mohammed or his brothers now own all but a handful of the young athletes who are due to race for the first time next year and on Thursday evening in Newmarket the opportunity will arise to gather one more rare jewel into the fold. The occasion will be the second session of the Houghton Sale, Europe's most glittering yearling auction, when a bay daughter of the Lyphard mare Cloelia takes her turn under the hammer.
She will be only the third by her sire, and the first filly, to be offered in a sale ring. The Sheikh duly collected one of the colts available, a son of Salsabil's half-sister Spirit of Tara, in Ireland last week at a cost of €1.2m (£830,000), but did actually pass on the one out of Fitnah at $1.6m (£964,000) in Kentucky earlier in the month.
He may find it hard to resist Cloelia's girl, though, who is a beauty by any standards. Bay, like her father, with the promise of scope and power in her growing frame, she has a face full of expression topped by large, generous ears. And, of course, a pedigree to die for: though her dam did not catch the judge's eye racing in France, she has produced a Grade 1 winner, Passinetti, and is a half-sister to Korveya, dam of Bosra Sham. It is also, more distantly, the family of Snow Bride, Lammtarra and Act One.
Statistics say that only five per cent of stallions are any good, so the odds are against Dubai Millennium to start with, particularly with his limited edition. But should he buck the trend, it should be remembered that the bloodstock business is a numbers game; the more anyone has, at any level, the more the possibility of success turns into probability.
The Dubai Millennium filly, being offered by Tony Ryan, founder of the eponymous budget airline, was one of the centres of attention yesterday at the Tattersalls sales complex in Newmarket, as the countdown to the flagship occasion of Europe's leading auction house gathers pace. The two-day sale, with some 150 lots, starts tomorrow evening and in the warm autumn sunshine the great and the good of the industry were checking out future talent. On paper and in the flesh, some look good; the Kingmambo colt out of Lady Carla is a cracker and the son of King's Best and Park Express was stopping the traffic.
And the Houghton has a good record; even in the modern era, when commercially-produced horses are far more numerous than ever before, most high-class winners are home-bred, but this week's fixture has been the only one in the world to produce an English Classic winner in the past three years: Milan, who cost 650,000gns; High Chapparal, at 270,000gns and Russian Rhythm, 440,000gns. And a Group 1 heroine has already emerged from last year's catalogue, 600,000gns buy Necklace.
The prices are an indication of the level of spending power required and ringside bidding duels, often between arch-rivals John Magnier and the Maktoum family, can make for an electric atmosphere in the huge domed auction arena as the sleek, polished young bluebloods parade under the lights and the auctioneers run through their patter.
But no matter what the cost, no horse this week comes with any guarantee, even from these elite ranks. The colt out of Park Express who cost £2.3m two years ago, for instance, has yet to see a racecourse. It is nature's way to produce more chumps than champs and it is that very factor of uncertainty that keeps a business built on dreams running.
* Keiren Fallon's appeal against the one-day suspension he incurred at Pontefract last week which rules him out of riding 7-1 Cambridgeshire favourite Akshar at Newmarket on Saturday will be heard by the Jockey Club's disciplinary panel on Thursday at 9.30am.
* The weights for Cheltenham's three top races, the Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase, are to be lowered to 11st 10lb from 12st.Reuse content