Racing: Sheikh keeps a grip on Millennium's stock

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The Independent Online

There was once a chap, who became known as the Pepper King, who had an obsession. The focus of his attention was the eponymous condiment; he set out to corner the world market in pepper and make himself wealthy and, because of his single-minded fanaticism, he managed it. But then faith in an idea has always been essential to major earth-moving projects.

There was once a chap, who became known as the Pepper King, who had an obsession. The focus of his attention was the eponymous condiment; he set out to corner the world market in pepper and make himself wealthy and, because of his single-minded fanaticism, he managed it. But then faith in an idea has always been essential to major earth-moving projects.

Sheikh Mohammed has already shown what vision, allied to resources, can do, not only in the creation of the Godolphin operation but also in the development of his homeland, Dubai, into a tourist and business hub unmatched in the Gulf. And another project produced a perfect start five days ago and is to be tested at Royal Ascot next week.

Last Friday may have been disappointing for the Sheikh as far as the performances of Punctilious and Sundrop in the Oaks were concerned. But at Goodwood that evening, in a modest six-furlong maiden, a two-year-old called Dubawi rescued the day. On this colt, and 51 of his contemporaries, is riding the future of an outrageous master plan.

They are the sons and daughters of the Sheikh's one true wonder horse, Dubai Millennium. That brilliant but ill-starred performer had but one crop of foals, 56 in number, before his untimely death from a rare disease. After the horse's demise Sheikh Mohammed set out to acquire, either privately or at auction, as many as possible of his offspring that he did not already own and all but four are now in Maktoum hands. Of those, 17 colts and 10 fillies have been selected to run for Godolphin; the rest are with the family's other trainers, including John Dunlop, Clive Brittain, Michael Jarvis and André Fabre.

Seldom can there have been an example of so many potentially gilded eggs in one basket. But yet, the Sheikh's policy makes some sort of sense. Most of the statistics associated with the bloodstock and breeding worlds confirm only the prevalence of mediocrity. Only five per cent or so of stallions, no matter how good they were as racehorses, can be judged a success in their second careers. And even the very best sires produce only around that same ratio of Group winners. Racing is a numbers game; the more horses, the more chance of turning possibility into probability. If Dubai Millennium is to produce one in his own mould, the Sheikh has done his darnedest to make sure he owns it.

That the Sheikh's heart is beating faster at the prospect of seeing the offspring of his best, and favourite, horse on the racecourse there is no doubt. "Whatever the three-year-olds do this year," he said after watching Snow Ridge's final gallop before the Derby, "our two-year-olds are really something else."

Dubawi, out of Italian Oaks winner Zomaradah, was the first of the Dubai Millenniums to appear in public and after his easy win is now in the frame for the Chesham Stakes next week. He is, though, by far the most forward of the Godolphin group, most of which will be seen out later. Dubai Millennium did not make his debut until October.

"To look at," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said, "they are not peas in a pod. Some are bigger, some smaller, a mixed bunch physically, different colours. But overall, the quality is most pleasing."

One of the Sheikh's favourites is the bay colt he bought for €1.2m (£840,000) at the sales last year and named Echo Of Light, the term astronomers use for the flicker at the birth of a star. "You can see the look of Dubai Millennium in his eye," he said.

It goes without saying that all the Dubai Millenniums have blood as royal blue as the silks most will carry. Of the colts, Echo Of Light is out of Spirit Of Tara, a half-sister to Salsabil; Intend To Leave is a half-brother to Oath; Watchtower is out of Coronation Stakes winner Balisada. Of the fillies, Mille, bought for 1.2m guineas last year, is out of a half-sister to Bosra Sham; Royal Opera is out of Cape Verdi, and Dorrati from Bahr.

It is a huge ask for a stallion to make a major impact with just one crop. Even Shergar, another brilliant horse lost early, could not. Dubai Millennium carries a potent genetic legacy, being by high-class sire Seeking The Gold out of Colorado Dancer, herself a top performer, and his precious limited edition will be given the best of chances. But only time will show whether their sire was a loss to the breed or merely to Sheikh Mohammed.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Pirlie Hill

(Hamilton 9.20)

NB: Alheri

(Hereford 3.00)

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