Bon voyage Enable, Paris awaits
We’ve seen the last of Enable, on these shores anyway. There’s now just a hop across the channel to attempt a record-breaking third win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
It wouldn’t be a disaster if she was unsuccessful – she has nothing to prove. But how we’d rejoice if she could add a 13th victory from 14 races, a victory that would go down in the history of Europe’s greatest race.
We rejoiced when she won the Yorkshire Oaks. In our hearts, we knew she would. But racing can be cruel sometimes and there are no certainties in this game.
She’s had one or two set-backs, so last year she couldn’t defend some of her crowns, including the Yorkshire Oaks, which she won in 2017.
Inevitably, there were some pre-race nerves. Pink and green Enable flags were handed out to racegoers on the Knavesmire. Was it tempting fate?
Magical, ridden by Ryan Moore, began a challenge with a little less than two-furlongs to go. At any other time, Magical would have been picking up wins at the highest level. But she’s come up against Enable.
And any possibility of Magical threatening to become a fly in the ointment was quickly dispelled. Frankie Dettori wanted a little more from Enable to stamp her authority on the race, and the answer was readily forthcoming. She won by two-and-three-quarter lengths.
There were tear’s in Dettori’s eyes as he came back the winner’s enclosure:
“I’m emotional because she’s so good. She’s amazing and the turnout is fantastic” he said.
The crowd were packed round the winner’s enclosure to welcome home their heroine, and to wish her bon voyage.
The York win meant the five-year-old mare had won 13 races from 14 starts, no less than 10 of them Group 1s, including her last 12 outings, all ridden by Frankie Dettori.
In 2017, as well as the Yorkshire Oaks, she took the Oaks, Irish Oaks, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, and that first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly.
Injury kept her off the racecourse until September 2018 when she returned to win on the all-weather at Kempton Park, beating Crystal Ocean by three-and-a-half lengths, in preparation for another tilt at the Arc, which returned to Longchamp, where she repelled Sea Of Class by a neck for back-to-back victories.
Whilst she just held on in Paris, she was far more in control when winning the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Turf at Churchill Downs, taking the lead 2f out and staying on to hold off runner-up Magical by three-quarters-of-a-length.
She again experienced setbacks which meant her 2019 seasonal debut was delayed until July. The wait, and the worry which came with it, was worth it.
Enable returned to a racecourse after an eight month absence, skipping Epsom’s Coronation Cup and Prince Of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot, to contest the £750,000 Group 1 Coral Eclipse at Sandown.
Would she be up to the task after set-backs prevented her from making earlier reappearances?
We soon knew the answer. In a race where mares and fillies have a desperate record, it was the distaff side which prevailed. And Magical did lay down a serious challenge, but not to the extent that Enable was going to succumb.
The winning distance might have been ¾l, but Enable’s victory was more emphatic than that.
She was racing smoothly down the back straight, as Hunting Horn set the pace, with Enable and Magical in tow. Two furlongs from home the contribution from Hunting Horn, the Aiden O’Brien second-string, came to an end.
A furlong from home, and Ryan Moore mounted a challenge on Magical but Enable responded to Frankie Dettori’s urging and the Sandown crowd knew they were witnessing a famous victory.
As Enable crossed the line those three-quarters-of-a-length in front of Magical, Dettori was saluting her triumph. And the Sandown crowd saluted back by raising the roof, making more noise than is heard from the track’s jump enthusiasts when one of their favourites wins after negotiating the open ditches, the pond fence and the railway fences.
As the winning partnership finished parading in front the of stands, and started the journey back along the rhododendron walk towards the winners enclosure, the crowd began a chorus hailing the winning jockey.
Needless to say, in the winner’s enclosure, Frankie performed his trade mark flying dismount in front of a big crowd which had rushed from the stands.
The next intended target was the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes later in the month,
The Berkshire track was set to witness the combination of the best racehorse in the world ridden by a jockey who is absolutely in his pomp.
What racegoers and the TV audience didn’t know was the treat which lay in store.
Eleven went to post at Ascot, with Enable the 8/15 favourite. Four of the runners had come over from Ballydoyle, including Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who’d since gone down in the shock defeat to stablemate Sovereign at the Curragh.
Only the second-favourite and old adversary Crystal Ocean, at 7/2, had any sort of market support.
Enable had drawn the widest berth, and Dettori would have wanted to get over to the inside rail at the earliest opportunity. Trouble was, the Irish raiders were setting the pace and Enable’s route was blocked. Dettori had to sit and suffer in the race’s early stages.
Even heading towards the final bend, Enable hadn’t been able to track across. But what happened next was stupendous
In the 1975 running of the King George, Grundy and Bustino eyeballed each other up the straight in an epic tussle. As the pair crossed the line, with Grundy prevailing, the do or die battle entered the annuls as “the race of the century”.
With a mile of the race run, the 2019 edition was about to deliver an equally pulsating climax.
With no room for manoeuvre, Dettori kept Enable at the back of the field but, three-furlongs out, it was time to mount a challenge. Coming wide, Enable accelerated and was in front with two-furlongs to go.
She’d taken the lead from Crystal Ocean, who’d been up front from the home turn. The five-year-old horse, trained by Sir Michael Stoute and ridden by James Doyle, wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
There was nothing between them and it was anyone’s call as to who would prevail. With 100 yards to go, Enable dug deep to get home by a neck.
It was one of racing’s greatest spectacles, and the roof-raising cheers were for the battle, the winner, and the vanquished.
Dettori, suffering from a cold, was exhausted as he took the super-mare back in front the of the stands, where the cheers were still ringing out.
The Ballydoyle quartet, who’d made Frankie’s life difficult for the first mile, were pretty much nowhere.
Enable had won a second King George in thee years
And maybe now the biggest triumph of all could be achieved. A third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
No horse as ever won it three times, but Enable might just be the horse to do it, and Frankie Dettori would certainly be the man to help ensure it happens.
But there are other people too who are playing a key role in seeking further success for Enable.
Owner Khalid Abdullah has kept the mare in training. After two Arc wins, victory in the Breeders Cup, many would have retired such a valuable asset, but the point of racehorses is to race and that is Abdullah’s thinking.
Enable’s continued participation in the sport is to be cherished and gratitude should be directed towards the owner as his iconic pink, white and green silks continue to be seen on racecourses atop Enable.
And the racing career of Enable has been marshalled by Lord Teddy Grimethorpe, Khalid Abdullah’s racing manager. As a director at York Racecourse he’ll have been gratified to see Enable move on to win on the Knavesmire following Ascot.
It’s been Gosden’s call when and where Enable has been raced, and his desire not to be hurried whilst the mare overcame her post Breeders Cup difficulties has been the epitome of patience.
It was only a couple of weeks before the Eclipse that Enable shook off the cobwebs following her layoff and Gosden was confident as anyone could be that a run in the Eclipse was the right time for her return.
A second King George has been added as has a second Yorkshire Oaks.
After that, the nerves are likely to crank up again as a date with history beckons. So now Longchamp awaits, and hopefully pink and green flags will be waved in honour of that elusive third Arc triumph.
The Stradivarius story – a race away from the second £1m bonus http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2rn