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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 22 February, 2020

Donn McClean: Enable's place in racing history is already assured, but she can achieve even more

With Frankie Dettori on board, the John Gosden-trained five-year-old impressed in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes on Saturday.

Frankie Dettori celebrating Saturday's win on board Enable.
Frankie Dettori celebrating Saturday's win on board Enable.
Image: Julian Herbert

ENABLE LOOKED VERY good at Sandown on Saturday.

She only got home by three parts of a length in the end from Magical, but Magical is a top class filly, and it was as much the style as the substance of Enable’s performance that impressed.

There was never a point in the race at which you thought that Khalid Abdullah’s filly would not win the Coral-Eclipse. Frankie Dettori quickly had her into her racing rhythm and in a perfect racing position, up on the outside of early leader Hunting Horn. Half way down the back straight, about six furlongs from home, Dettori had a little look under his left arm, presumably just to see where everybody else was, where his main rival Magical was and how she was travelling. And she was right behind, in his slipstream, Ryan Moore still motionless.

Dettori checked again just after they straightened up for home, and he saw that Moore was becoming a little more animated, and still Enable’s rider sat still. He allowed his filly coast past the three-furlong pole and coast past Hunting Horn and, when they got to the two-furlong marker, he asked his filly to pick up. She picked up all right. She didn’t burst clear, she didn’t put parishes between herself and her rivals, but it always looked like she was going to win.

Of course, the profile of Enable’s win was enhanced by Frankie Dettori. Dettori said that it was all about the filly, but it was all about the rider too. On the back of the Royal Ascot that he has had, seven wins, including three Group 1s, and a Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in the interim. Then he went to Deauville on Sunday and won the Prix Jean Prat on Too Darn Hot. That’s six Group 1 wins in less than three weeks, and that’s remarkable.

There were reasons for believing that Enable was vulnerable on Saturday. She was making her seasonal debut after she had missed potential engagements in the Coronation Cup and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. You know that her primary goal this year is to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe again, to become the first horse ever to win the Arc three times in a row. You know that John Gosden is gearing her whole season around that goal, so how fit was she likely to be on her seasonal debut? 80%? 85%? Her first step on the road to the Arc?

Also, she was racing over 10 furlongs on Saturday for the first time in over two years. Indeed, on the previous occasion on which she had raced over the distance, in a conditions race at Newbury in April 2017, she had finished only third, almost three lengths behind her better-fancied stable companion Shutter Speed.

Lots of water has rolled under lots of bridges since then.

Dante Festival - Day Three - York Racecourse Enable's trainer, John Gosden. Source: Richard Sellers

All that Enable had achieved in the interim, she had achieved over a mile and a half. A Cheshire Oaks, an Epsom Oaks, an Irish Oaks, a Yorkshire Oaks. A King George and a Breeders’ Cup Turf. And two Arc de Triomphes: one at Chantilly as a three-year-old, receiving weight from her elders, one at Longchamp as a four-year-old, conceding weight to the youngsters.

Now add an Eclipse at Sandown, over 10 furlongs.

Not everybody was impressed. Timeform actually lowered her rating to a mark of 129, citing the proximity of the 110-rated Danceteria in fourth place as grounds.

Even so, it is difficult not to think of Enable in exalted terms. Comparisons have been made already with Frankel and with Sea The Stars, two of the great racehorses of this century.

Of course, all three are very different. Frankel raced 14 times and was never beaten. Ridden in all his races by Tom Queally, he won four times as a two-year-old, five times as a three-year-old and five times as a four-year-old. Owned, like Enable, by Khalid Abdullah, and trained by Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel was all about style and substance. A son of Galileo, he won the Sussex Stakes by six lengths, he won the Juddmonte International by seven and he won the Queen Anne Stakes by 11. He was a colossus.

Sea The Stars was beaten on his racecourse debut, but he wasn’t beaten again. He went seven for seven as a three-year-old. Expertly managed by John Oxx, he won the Guineas, the Derby, the Eclipse, the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes, and he rounded off his three-year-old season and his racing career by winning the Arc de Triomphe.

He raced once every month that season, May, June, July, August, September and October, and he won once every month. And, in Michael Kinane, he had the ideal partner. A son of Cape Cross and a half-brother to Galileo, he never raced as a four-year-old or as a five-year-old, which was a real shame, because he could have gone even higher.

Enable is obviously still racing. It is difficult to position her in racing’s pantheon now, not only because of the potential of recency bias, but also because we still don’t know what she can achieve. It is probable that she can achieve even more than she has achieved to date. Her place in racing history is already assured but, if she could win a third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October, as a three-time Arc winner, she would be out on her own.

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Donn McClean

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