Author: John Berry

THE FORTHCOMING Flat season in Britain and Ireland will feature an extra element of intrigue. Who will be Champion Sire? The current century began with Sadler’s Wells repeatedly making the sires’ premiership a one horse race and, while Danehill and Danehill Dancer each put their noses in front for a while, we then became accustomed to Sadler’s Wells’ son Galileo having as iron tight a grip on the title as his father used to have.

However, Frankel topping the General Sires’ Table in 2021 has shown that Galileo does not just automatically dominate, throwing things right open. We can expect a similarly intriguing battle this year, and one thing that seems certain is that Dubawi will yet again be one of the major players.

If he can win his first title this year at the age of 20, it will be a just reward for consistent excellence over a prolonged period. Over the past decade, Dubawi has played the role which Richard Johnson used to play in Britain’s National Hunt riding ranks during the lengthy reign of A P McCoy.

For years, Johnson was regarded as the best jumps jockey never to be champion. He was certainly the most successful of any such jockeys, regularly posting totals of winners which would have made him the clear cut champion in any other era while repeatedly chasing ‘The Champ’ home in the jockeys’ title race.

Justice was, of course, finally done. McCoy retired at the end of the 2014/’15 season and Johnson duly won the championship in each of the next four seasons. In his first championship season he rode 235 winners, a total which McCoy hadn’t reached since 2003.

Ultimately Johnson retired with a total of 3,799 winners, still some way short of McCoy’s total of 4,204 but a mile clear of the previous record, Richard Dunwoody’s 1,874. It has been a similar story with Galileo and Dubawi. Galileo was first Champion Sire in 2008 and then topped the table every year from 2010 to 2020 inclusive.

During this time Dubawi, who retired to stud in 2006 and had his first runners in 2009, quickly established himself as the main challenger to Galileo. Dubawi has finished in the top five of the sires’ table in each of the past nine years, four times finishing runner-up.

Dubawi was an instant success at stud, with his first crop containing a 2000 Guineas winner (Makfi) as well as a world class sprinter (Luck Or Design, who went to Hong Kong after winning a maiden race in Ireland and, his name changed to Lucky Nine, won ten high class races in Asia including the Hong Kong Sprint at the International Meeting in December 2011 and two runnings of the Krisflyer International Sprint in Singapore).

The smart start which Makfi gave Dubawi by winning the 2000 Guineas in 2010 forms part of a remarkable ‘father to son series’ of first crop Classic triumphs. Dubawi, of course, is a member of the first and only crop of the mighty Dubai Millennium, and he won the Irish 2000 Guineas in 2005. Dubawi then, in turn, sired a first crop Classic winner when Makfi triumphed up the Rowley Mile in the spring of 2010.

Makfi then sired a first crop Classic winner when Make Believe won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains in 2015; and Make Believe subsequently did the same when Mishriff won the Prix du Jockey-Club in 2020. And it is not just with these horses, of course, that Dubawi is establishing his own sire line, most obviously with his second 2000 Guineas winner, the 2014 hero Night Of Thunder, now looking particularly influential.

He is one of five sons of Dubawi on the Darley roster and to date the only one who can yet be assessed as a sire: Postponed has only had 2yo runners so far, while it all still lies ahead for the very exciting prospects Ghaiyyath, Too Darn Hot and Space Blues.

With Galileo having revealed a chink in his armour when his run of consecutive championships came to an end in 2021, the sires’ honours in 2022 look wide open. Galileo, of course, can’t be ruled out, notwithstanding that, almost unthinkable by the standards of recent years, none of his sons feature in the upper reaches of the betting for the Derby.

Frankel, who dominated the sires’ table last year largely thanks to the fact that Godolphin’s two brightest Classic stars (Adayar and Hurricane Lane) are both his sons, will be a leading player once again. And nobody could discount the possibility of Dubawi gaining his reward for long running reliability by finally taking his first championship.

Dubawi’s standout achievement in 2021 was becoming the first stallion ever to sire a treble at the Breeders’ Cup Meeting. All three winners were Godolphin homebreds, all trained by Charlie Appleby. Promisingly for the stallion’s season ahead, two of the three (BC Turf hero Yibir and BC Juvenile Turf winner Modern Games) remain in training, as do several other of the high class Dubawi horses who did so well for the team last year, including British Champions Sprint Stakes winner Creative Force, Autumn Stakes winner Corebus, Queen’s Vase winner Kemari and 2000 Guineas runnerup Master Of The Seas.

It is realistic to suggest that all of these horses can make a significant contribution to their sire’s attempt to become the Champion Sire of Great Britain and Ireland for the first time. This is a significant year for Dubawi anyway as he has now reached the grand age of 20. A sires’ championship would be a very fitting and richly deserved way of celebrating this notable birthday, which officially took place on 1 January and which unofficially but actually happens soon on 7 February.