Dubai Millennium, a 4-year-old British-bred who had his name changed for the sole purpose of winning the first Dubai World Cup in the millennium, did just that Saturday night.
Owned by Godolphin Racing, Inc., headed by Dubai's ruling family Al Maktoum, Dubai Millennium won the world's richest thoroughbred event by six lengths over Behrens of the United States.
Saudi-owned Public Purse, winner of the San Marcos Handicap at Santa Anita in his previous start, finished third. Puerto Madero, third in the Santa Anita Handicap three weeks ago, was fourth over the 1 1/4-mile Nad al Sheba course.
Dubai Millennium, originally named Yareek, was pursued closely in the early stages by Behrens, but he found another gear at the halfway point and surged far ahead almost effortlessly.
"This is the best horse I've seen in terms of looks and action," said Dubai Millennium's owner, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai. "He didn't disappoint."
Ridden by Italian jockey Frankie Dettori, Dubai Millennium showed why Sheik Mohammed was confident of winning the $3.6 million top prize. Before the race, Dubai Millennium had earned only $615,581.
Dettori was certain of victory long before crossing the finish line.
"He wanted to go and I thought, `OK, let's go,' " Dettori said. "It's the best horse I've ever ridden.
"I heard the cheering and thought I'd take a look. I almost broke my neck looking back."
Dubai Millennium was made the 4-7 favorite by British bookmaker Ladbrokes. Betting is forbidden in Dubai because of its Islamic laws. Wagering was permitted in other countries, including the United States, where bets could be placed in 35 states.
Dubai Millennium won six of his first seven starts on the grass in England and France, including the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot. He then won his only start this year in the Maktoum Challenge at Nad al Sheba.
He is trained by Saeed bin Suroor of the United Arab Emirates, who won the British trainer's championships in 1996, 1998 and 1999.
Godolphin also won the race last year with Almutawakel.
Behrens, trained by H. James Bond, had won his first four starts and lost his next four, before winning the Gulfstream Park Handicap Feb. 26. He finished fifth in the Dubai World Cup in 1998.
Ridden by Jorge Chavez, Behrens, a 6-year-old, earned $1.2 million for finishing second.
Ecton Park, another U.S. horse, was fifth, followed by Japan's World Cleek and Britain's Running Stag. Hong Kong's Indigenous, Britain's Lear Spear, the United States' Saint's Honor, Strudel Fitz, Gracioso and Worldly Manner completed the field.
Malek, last year's runner-up and fourth in 1998, was scratched Friday after incurring a tear in his right foreleg.
Richard Mandella, who trains Malek, was hoping to make up for the scratch with Puerto Madero, a 12-1 shot, but Dubai Millennium watoo much for the U.S.-based horse, ridden by the world's winningest jockey, Laffit Pincay.
Mandella is the only trainer to have a horse in all five Dubai World Cups. He has yet to win.
In the night's other races, horses owned by the Al Maktoum family, and Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi's ruling family, won five of six events.
In the $1 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, Alex Solis celebrated his 36th birthday, riding American Big Jag to victory in a track record 1:08 1-5, nearly a full second off the previous mark.
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