From the moment Yaazer was renamed Dubai Millennium, his destiny was set – and 20 years on from his crowning moment, the memory still burns bright.
Sheikh Mohammed had originally given the Seeking The Gold colt a name that translated as ‘White Gazelle’, but as it became clear he was the pick of his generation, the owner endowed the treasured moniker – which also served as a statement of intent.
Dubai Millennium made his racecourse debut at Yarmouth in October 1998, readily accounting for some classy rivals – including future Group One winner Indian Lodge – and leaving quite the impression on commentator Derek Thompson.
He said: “I remember when he made his debut at Yarmouth. You commentate on hundreds of races in a year, but then you see something in a race and you think, ‘that was special’ – he certainly made that impression on me.
“He was renamed from Yaazer with the Dubai World Cup in mind and the rest, as they say, was history.”
While the Dubai World Cup on the last Saturday in March 2000 was always the ultimate aim for Dubai Millennium, trainer Saeed bin Suroor did not dodge the big days along the way.
After sluicing up in a Derby trial, Dubai Millennium was sent off favourite for the 1999 Epsom Classic, suffering what was to be his only career defeat when coming home ninth. He never ran over a mile and a half again.
Bin Suroor soon got his charge back on track and Dubai Millennium signed off in Europe with Group One wins, in the Prix Jacques le Marois and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes before heading to the desert to prepare for his lifetime goal.
With a prep race under his belt, all eyes were on Frankie Dettori and Dubai Millennium, as they broke well from a high draw and had the race firmly in their grasp after just a furlong.
It was just a matter of ‘how far’ after that and the Nad Al Sheba crowd began cheering at the top of the straight, hailing their hero as he came home six lengths clear.
Thompson also had the call there, and recalls: “After he won the race, I always remember Sheikh Mohammed leading him back in and there were so many followers around him – health and safety certainly wouldn’t have allowed it now!
“Everything just went perfectly. Of all the thousands of wins Sheikh Mohammed had had, you could tell this was special and it was a special night for Dubai, too.
“I think out of all of his horses, this was the one for Sheikh Mohammed. It was an amazing performance.”
After fulfilling the dreams of a nation, Dubai Millennium jetted back to Europe where he trounced a fine field by eight lengths in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot – with crack American jockey Jerry Bailey in the saddle as Dettori recovered from his horrific plane crash.
Sheikh Mohammed then proposed an intriguing match race with French superstar Montjeu – but not long after Dubai Millennium fractured his leg on the gallops and was immediately retired.
A gilded future at Dalham Hall Stud seemed assured, but tragedy was to strike in April 2001 as Dubai Millennium contracted grass sickness and could not be saved.
He sired just one crop, but produced five stakes winners from those 56 foals, including Dubawi, who has enjoyed an exceptional stud career with a raft of top-level performers.
Thompson added: “It’s so sad that he only had one crop at stud – he could have been one of the greatest stallions of all time.
“To have a horse like Dubawi in that crop of 50 or so foals shows you potentially how important he could have been.”