Racing: Reason and romance point to Dubawi

The Derby: Victory would complete a Classic fairytale for dashing colt's owner and cold logic says it should happen
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On Saturday at Epsom, one man's obsession is set to come to glorious fruition. Six years after Dubai Millennium, the brilliant, ill-starred favourite of Sheikh Mohammed, suffered his only defeat in the Derby, one of the horse's limited edition sons will carry his flag high in the 226th running of the world's most famous race. And should Dubawi prevail, he will step from the pages of history into legend.

On Saturday at Epsom, one man's obsession is set to come to glorious fruition. Six years after Dubai Millennium, the brilliant, ill-starred favourite of Sheikh Mohammed, suffered his only defeat in the Derby, one of the horse's limited edition sons will carry his flag high in the 226th running of the world's most famous race. And should Dubawi prevail, he will step from the pages of history into legend.

The poignant story of Dubai Millennium has been oft-told. Both his racing career and life were cut short, the first by a broken hind leg and the second by a rare fatal disease. He left behind 54 foals, and those not already in Maktoum hands, Mohammed set about collecting. Buying privately and at auction, in utero, as foals and as yearlings, he secured all bar four. The time, money and energy devoted to obtaining the virtual monopoly has been worth it, for two of the 26 colts have made it to the Derby, Dubawi as second favourite and Belenus as a lively outsider. Both were bred in-house and they were, coincidentally, Dubai Millennium's first two winners.

Often, following the fairytale is a fair guide to big-race success, but romance apart there are very good reasons to go with Dubawi on Saturday. Class, for one. The bay colt was unbeaten in three runs as a juvenile; Derby day marks the exact anniversary of his debut and he finished his campaign with an impressive three-length success in Ireland's premier juvenile contest, the National Stakes.

After the traditional Godolphin winter in Dubai, he disappointed as favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, finishing only fifth. He clearly hated the firm ground, changing his leading leg repeatedly as he tried to get comfortable, but three weeks later, in the Irish version of the mile Classic, he showed his true blue colours. Back on easier ground, he had Frankie Dettori vainly looking for dangers at half-way as he accelerated clear in the style of a very good horse indeed.

The ability to see out a mile and a half is a prerequisite for victory in the Derby. The great race was the only occasion on which Dubai Millennium was tried over the distance, but his failure came through deficiencies in temperament - he boiled over in the preliminaries - before stamina became an issue.

There are stout influences, though, in Dubawi's pedigree. His dam Zomaradah was a high-class runner on both sides of the Atlantic, winner of an Italian Oaks and an EP Taylor Stakes, and she is out of a half-sister to 1998 Derby hero High-Rise from the close family of High Hawk, dam of In The Wings.

Dubawi is a settled type, who races kindly under restraint, much more so than his impetuous sire. And this week's forecast weather and Epsom's watering policy should ensure that he gets his preferred underfoot conditions. He does not need soft ground, but hates it hard.

If Dubawi is defending his father's honour, so is his market rival, the Derby favourite, Motivator. He is by Montjeu, who was a contemporary of Dubai Millennium and also a performer of the highest class. The two colts never met - a match-race mooted by Sheikh Mohammed was scuppered by his champion's injury - but the chips off two magnificent blocks are taking the battle to the next generation.

Motivator, trained by Michael Bell in Newmarket and owned by a 230-strong up-market racing club, goes to Saturday's fray three for three. He put himself in the mix at the top with his victory in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last year and confirmed he belonged there by taking York's Dante Stakes on his return to action.

The big, feisty colt's jockey will not be known until Wednesday, when Johnny Murtagh appeals against a ban, with Darryll Holland on standby. Conversely, Kieren Fallon's mount is not yet identified from the seven Ballydoyle raiders remaining before tomorrow's penultimate declaration stage, but it is likely to be Oratorio or Gypsy King. Oratorio won the Grand Criterium at Longchamp last year and has this year run fourth in the 2,000 Guineas and second to Dubawi at the Curragh, both solid, staying-on efforts from the son of Danehill. Gypsy King, by Sadler's Wells, maintained his unbeaten record by winning the Dee Stakes on his second outing. Fallon is going for his third consecutive Derby, a feat achieved so far only by Steve Donoghue, on Humorist, Captain Cuttle and Papyrus from 1921-23.

Saturday's race looks a cracker. The victors of three of Europe's four top Group One juvenile races are in the field, plus the winners of all the recognised trials. But the Derby is a beginning, not an end, the race that lays down the marker. The standardbearer for a generation will not be identified until his pace, balance, stamina, acceleration and resolve pass muster over Epsom's switchback. Dubawi is the one; he can realise his owner's dream and finally lay the Blue Riband ghost for Dettori at his 13th attempt.

Friday's 227th Oaks can be left to Eswarah, who will be trying to keep it in the family. The Unfuwain filly is out of Midway Lady, who added the Epsom Classic to her 1,000 Guineas 19 years ago. Eswarah, who transferred from Midway Lady's trainer Ben Hanbury to Michael Jarvis during the close season, is unproven in the highest grade but her recent homework has been exceptional. Eight Oaks winners have produced daughters who followed suit, but none since Musa's girl Mirska in 1909.

Montgomery's Selections

The Derby

1 Dubawi

2 Oratorio

3 Motivator

4 Walk In The Park

Longshot: Indigo Cat

The Oaks

1 Eswarah

2 Cassydora

3 Pictavia

4 Virginia Waters

Longshot: Mona Lisa

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