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Dettori and Enable after winning the Yorkshire Oaks this year.
Dettori and Enable after winning the Yorkshire Oaks this year.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

History beckons for Enable and Dettori in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

Khalid Abdullah’s mare will look to claim the race for a record third time this Sunday, writes Donn McClean.
Oct 2nd 2019, 12:52 PM 2,712 4

ENABLE WILL BID for a slice of racing history on Sunday when she lines up in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

In the near-100-year history of the race, no horse has ever won it three times. Enable won it in 2017 and in 2018, and she is odds-on to win it in 2019.

Khalid Abdullah’s mare is no stranger to racing history. She won her Arcs at two different tracks for starters: 2017 at Chantilly, 2018 at Longchamp. She is also a dual King George winner. She was only the third horse to win the King George twice, and she was the first to win it in non-consecutive years.

And then there are the 13 wins from 14 runs.

Enable hasn’t been beaten since she finished third behind her stable companion Shutter Speed in a conditions race at Newbury in April 2017, on her first run as a three-year-old. To those two Arcs and two King Georges add an Oaks, an Irish Oaks, two Yorkshire Oaks, an Eclipse and a Breeders’ Cup Turf. She has run in 10 Group 1 races, and she has won them all.

It is always difficult to evaluate the significance of the contribution that the trainer makes to a racehorse’s achievement. The horse has to have the ability, but the trainer has to harness that ability, manage it, deploy it efficiently and effectively, and John Gosden’s role in Enable’s drive to superstardom is obviously massive. Her second Arc win last year, on the back of a difficult preparation, just one prep run, was Gosden at his best.

Frankie Dettori’s role is obviously key too. The rider’s effervescence can sometimes dominate to the extent that his skill in the saddle is overlooked, but Dettori remains one of the best riders in the world, and he excels on the big occasions, on the big stages.

Dettori has won the Arc six times, more times than any other jockey, and his value to Enable has been evident in her two victories in the race. Drawn in stall two in 2017 at Chantilly, Dettori got his filly out of the gate and wide around the first left-hand kink, into a good position without setting her alight, before allowing her settle into her racing rhythm and wheel back around to her right.

It was a similar story last year at Longchamp. They had a good draw, but Dettori made sure that he got his position, got his filly settled and prominent, and got first run on his rivals in the home straight. He asked his filly for her effort at what proved to be exactly the right time, just inside the 400-metre mark, and she set up a race-winning advantage. She just had enough in hand to get home by a short neck from the fast-finishing Sea Of Class.

Enable would be box office on her own. Her achievements determine that she would be. But her position in the public’s consciousness is undoubtedly heightened by the fact that Dettori is her rider.

There will be a groundswell of sentiment behind her on Sunday, that’s for sure. You want her to win. For racing. For history. It will be like a decade ago, same day, Arc de Triomphe day, when John Oxx took Sea The Stars to Longchamp for his swansong. Five runs that year, five wins. Five Group 1s in five months. The Arc was the sixth race, October was the sixth month. People spoke in the abstract that day before racing. Hope we get the right result, they said. Hope he wins. They didn’t mention Sea The Stars’ name. They didn’t need to. And they cheered him and Michael Kinane home.

horse-racing-88th-qatar-arc-de-triomphe-2009-horse-race-paris Sea The Stars, ridden by Mick Kinane, wins the 88th Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2009. Source: Plessis Thierry

Can she do it? The case ‘for’ is easy to argue. It’s all of the above, she is the best horse in the race on form, she is the highest-rated horse, she is proven over the course and distance and there appears to be no diminution in the potency of her talent. Her latest run, when she beat Magical by almost three lengths in the Yorkshire Oaks, was up there with her best performances.

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The case ‘against’ is not so easy, but there are strands. You can point to the fact that she only just got home last year, from a good draw, from a rival who was drawn wide and had to make her ground from the rear. She has been drawn well in both renewals of the Arc that she has won, even if a low draw at Chantilly is not as important as a low draw at Longchamp is.

We don’t have the draw for Sunday’s race yet, and it may not be as kind to her this year. That said, with just 12 horses in the race at present, even a bad draw will not be as bad as a bad draw would have been last year, when there were 19 runners.

There’s also her age. Enable is five now, and the Arc is a young horse’s race. Three-year-olds will receive a 6lb allowance from their elders on Sunday, and three-year-olds have won 11 of the last 16 renewals of the race and 18 of the last 25. And when a three-year-old doesn’t win it, it tends to go to a four-year-old. Only two horses aged older than four – Marienbard and Tony Bin – have won the Arc in the last 40 years.

There’s the opposition, headed by Japan and Sottsass, both progressive and weight-receiving three-year-olds, and impressive Grosser Preis von Baden winner Ghaiyyath, and old foe Magical. And there’s history.

Treve had a similar profile in 2015 to the profile that Enable has now. Criquette Head’s mare won the Arc in 2013 and in 2014, and went into the 2015 as the warm favourite, a five-year-old mare, having looked as good as ever in landing her prep race, the Prix Vermeille, three weeks earlier. But Treve came up short. She could finish only fourth.

History may be against Enable on Sunday, but the rest of the world will be with her.

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Donn McClean

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