The Secret Racegoer salutes the return of Enable
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?
Was the Ballydoyle filly, Magical, a year younger, going to lay down a serious challenge?
Would the Hughie Morrison trained Dante winner at York but Derby disappointment Telecaster deliver in this Group 1 to make up for the Epsom reversal?
Or would Regal Reality repeat his earlier triumph in the course’s Brigadier Gerard Stakes and take Sandown’s premier Flat race for Sir Michael Stoute.
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. Not for Paddy Beggy was there going to be a second surprise win in a week after his 33/1 shock win on Sovereign in the Irish Derby. Enable was now at the head of affairs.
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.
Whereas a couple of years ago the Glastonbury Festival crowd broke into “Jeremy, Jeremy Corbyn”, Sandown’s crowd chanted “Frankie, Frankie Dettori”. You get the feeling that there’s a much better chance of the latter lasting by way of appreciation and approval than the former.
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.
Whether or not a record has been kept of all his leaps from the back of winning horses is not known, but it does feel as if 2019 has seen more of his acrobatics than any other season the 48-year-old jockey has been celebrating winners at the highest level.
And what does the Sandown win precede?
The intended target is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes later this month, and there’ll be none of the articles which ask if the Ascot mid-summer race has lost some of its lustre.
The Berkshire track will witness the combination of the best racehorse in the world ridden by a jockey who is absolutely in his pomp.
It is an irresistible combination which will be back over 1m4f, after the 1m2f Sandown Eclipse win, a distance at which Enable has suffered her only defeat, and where they could take the tally to 11 consecutive wins.
And maybe then the biggest triumph of all could be achieved. The 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 and 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 be pleased to see Enable move on the Knavesmire following Ascot.
The option at York would either be the Juddmonte International or the Yorkshire Oaks. This brings in the fourth key participant in Enable’s illustrious career, trainer John Gosden. His preference is the Yorkshire Oaks – and then it’s on to the Arc.
It has 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 ago 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.
Reports during the week that she was in good form on the gallops settled some of the nerves, but there’s nothing like a race itself to see if a horse is race fit.
At Sandown we got the answer, and the Flat has a horse capable of taking on Frankle’s mantle of being known, appreciated and enjoyed by the wider sporting public.
Sandown’s Eclipse Stakes was up there with the best races to witness in person. Now we can look forward to the next chapter, with a little less of the nerves and a great deal more anticipation.