Dubai: The prize money was once again increased from $5m to $6m to mark the fifth running of the Dubai World Cup, which by now had claimed its place about the most prestigious races on the planet.
Only a small field of six horses would be contesting the race, but then again what could you expect given the fact that a horse called Dubai Millennium was the centre of attraction.
Sport is filled with meaningful narratives, but perhaps few can compare to the one surrounding Dubai Millennium. It dates back to 1996 when the handsome son of Seeking The Gold was born at Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket, England and was christened Yaazer, meaning ‘White Gazelle’.
Even from an early age, Yaazer caught the attention of his handler David Loder.
Described as a horse that had ‘the look of eagles,’ he was rechristened Dubai Millennium by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The reason being, that Sheikh Mohammed had plotted to train him to win the Dubai World Cup in it’s millennium year.
I remember first seeing him late 1999 and also quickly subscribing to his vast and growing fan club. He may not have won the Epsom Derby that year but he had stamped his class in France and in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Ascot.
There was a lot to like about this horse, not because the myth had been created, but he was so very special. Everything from the way he stood, cantered, galloped and ran his heart out on the track was different.
Saeed Bin Surour, who had won the Dubai World Cup in 1999 with Almutawakel , had a prize horse in his yard, and he was the first to acknowledge it.
I remember him saying that he felt humbled and priviedgd to have a horse of Dubai Millennium’s quality and capability in his yard.
It was a bit disappointing that we could not watch him training for the Dubai World Cup because he did all his work at Godolphin’s private gallops in the then Metropolitan area of Dubai.
But did he wow us on the big day.
As soon as the gates flew open in the Dubai World Cup, Dubai Millennium began to assert himself as he set a blistering pace under his jockey Frankie Dettori, before pulling away from the challenge of American raiders Behrens and Public Purse off the final bend to cruise to a six-length victory in a course record time.
It was breathtaking and unforgettable.
Dubai Millennium died of grass sickness in 2001 with Sheikh Mohammed by his side. But his legacy lives on till this day.