Anyone who’s been in this game for a while knows about how attached you can get to your ‘favourite’ horses. George Washington, Zarkava, Shawanda, Rio De La Plata, and even that enigmatic gelding Our Vic have all been on my personal radar since I really started getting into racing.
Dubawi however is something a little bit different for me. Before I really go into my own personal attachment to Dubawi though it’s important to remember that he was a fine racehorse, who’s three defeats could all be attributed to factors beyond his control..
Dubawi’s trademark turn of foot was evident throughout his juvenile career, especially on his first foray into Group One company in the National Stakes at the Curragh, where he cut down what was admittedly a below-par Group One field to take his two-year-old record to a perfect three from three. The quirks he had displayed in his maiden success were apparent in the Emerald Isle, as Dubawi jinked both ways when going clear in the final furlong- a trait Dettori convincingly put down to greenness.
The first major test for the colt was to be the 2000 Guineas of 2005. Shamardal, a star juvenile for Mark Johnston, had wintered as favourite for the Classic but new owners Godolphin rerouted him to Dubai in preparation for a crack at the Kentucky Derby. This left Dubawi as the outstanding candidate for the Newmarket contest, but come the day he faced an unusually lightening quick Rowley Mile- something connections considered to be very much against their horse. In the circumstances it was a fair performance from the colt in finishing fifth to the never-seen-again Ballydoyle runner Footstepsinthesand, but nevertheless it was disappointing to see Dubawi lose his unbeaten status.
His performance in routing Oratorio in the Irish 2000 Guineas was much more like the Dubawi we had seen as a youngster, as he made easy headway and quickened right away from the well-backed Oratorio, who would go on to prove himself as a genuine Group One horse in the Eclipse. This was the first real sign that Dubawi could be a star, and he was immediately aimed at Epsom, where his ability and, much more worryingly, his stamina would be tested to the maximum. Having travelled enthusiastically throughout the first mile of the mile-and-a-half trip, it was no surprise to see the colt failing to make an impression on the stoutly-bred Motivator after swinging round Tattenham Corner, and it was apparent that he would be seen in a better light back at a mile.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/dubawi2.png” href=””]Dubawi winning the Prix Jacques Le Marois[/frame_right]
In defeating a small but high quality Jacques Le Marois field at Deauville, Dubawi confirmed that he was the top-notch miler of his crop. Behind him that day were Whipper (winner of the race in 2004), Valixir (dual Group One winner) and the darling of French racing Divine Proportions, who up until that defeat had a nine-from-nine career record.
Unfortunately the final race of Dubawi’s career became a bit of a disaster, with Frankie ignoring instructions to follow his pacemaker and ending up in the middle of the track in the QEII. Eventually re-joining the stands side group, Dettori had allowed Starcraft an advantage which he was unable to recover and Dubawi finished an unlucky second.
All of the above adds up to a very smart career, but on figures a rating of 123 does not put Dubawi in anything like the top category. As well as enjoying a smart performer in action, the reason I was so gutted that Dubawi failed to get passed Starcraft is in his background.
First of all Dubawi is by one of the great racehorses of the last generation. What Dubai Millennium did to his rivals in the 2000 Dubai World Cup was visually incredible, setting a gallop that would see most horses crying enough after about six furlongs and visibly quickening off it with two furlongs to run. He followed up by thrashing Sendawar in the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes back on turf, and had he not suffered a career-ending injury he could well have become the first true world champion on dirt and turf. Because of his injury and subsequent death due to grass sickness, Dubai Millennium only produced one incomplete crop at stud… the best of which was Dubawi.
This is where the emotional connection to Dubawi starts to really develop. Dubai Millennium’s owner was Sheikh Mohammed, a man who’s involvement in British racing has probably saved the sport’s existence as we know it. Dubai Millennium was the apple of the Sheikh’s eye (he famously quoted that he “could see the winds of heaven” between the colt’s ears) and his highness was present during the operation in which the colt lost his battle with grass sickness. This was a man who had everything in life, but who cared deeply for his horses and was now focused on finding a son of the one that mattered most to him who was good enough to fill his father’s box at Dalham Hall.
As by some way the best of the crop, the small, compact son of Oaks winner Zomaradah carried the dreams of one of the weathiest men on the planet every time he set foot on the racecourse. Instead of potential covering fees or winners prizes Dubawi’s victories brought with them the raw emotion of having found a worthy successor to his great sire. I couldn’t help but find it amazing that such a powerful man could be so wrapped up in the performances of this small bay individual!
It helps that as a stallion Dubawi has been a phenomenon. His Group winners from five furlongs to a mile-and-a-half include 2000 Guineas winner Makfi, Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso, and QEII winner Poet’s Voice, while he is also responsible for this season’s Ascot Gold Cup fourth Gulf Of Naples. Standing at stud for £75,000, Dubawi is part of an elite band of stallions in Europe alongside the likes of Galileo, Dansili & Oasis Dream, as well as the recently deceased Montjeu.
For me Dubawi represented everything that is good about racing. He was small, genuine, ridden by the greatest jockey of my lifetime and owned by a man who has the world (and an amazing wife…) but to whom Dubawi meant so much. He ran his heart out to finish 5th in the Guineas when all at sea on the ground, he was still trying entering the 12th furlong of a race that was blatantly too much for him at Epsom, and when he came alongside Starcraft in the QEII it was as if a pony had ranged up beside a shire horse. But did the colt shy away from the challenge? Like his owner, Dubawi did not know how.