By Geoffrey Riddle at Chantilly
Chantilly has already staged one notable Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and should Enable justify her cramped odds in Europe’s most valuable race on Sunday it would be no less historic.
Twelve months ago Aidan O’Brien managed the unprecedented feat of saddling the first three home when Found beat stable companions Highland Reel and Order Of St George.
Frankie Dettori stands on the cusp of eclipsing former stars such as Yves St Martin, Freddy Head and Pat Eddery, in addition to local heroes Olivier Peslier and Thierry Jarnet, as the most successful Arc jockey of all time.
If Enable becomes the first British three-year-old filly to triumph at the home of French racing, then Dettori would add to his victories aboard Lammtarra (1995), Sakhee (2001), Marienbard (2002) and Golden Horn (2015). Chantilly would have been an admirable custodian of this great race before it heads back to Longchamp next year.
Except Dettori, and trainer John Gosden, would have preferred to have staged Europe’s showpiece event on the Bois du Bologne anyway.
The stunning façade of the Grand Ecuries here may exude magnificence, but its striking impression varnishes over what is a tricky course to ride.
The narrow track is in stark contrast to the sweeping open spaces of Longchamp, where horses such as Sea The Stars had just enough runway to secure lift-off to the heavens. There is less space here with which to work, and it has a tight hazardous hairpin bend, too.
As a filly who has raced prominently in the past, Dettori should encounter few traffic problems from stall two. The doubts are creeping in, however, as the nerves start to jangle.
“I think there are five or six really nice other horses in there, not one to be afraid of,” Gosden said. “Remember, Chantilly is not an easy track, with sharp bends. Not always the best horse wins.”
Gosden kicked the autumn of Cracksman's Classic season in to touch because, largely, he felt the best British three-year-old colt was no match for Enable. The Cracksman decision illustrates how highly the 66-year-old rates the daughter of Nathaniel, who the Newmarket handler trained to win a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Quite simply, Enable is the best middle-distance filly Gosden has trained, and for many of her connections the best filly or mare they have ever been associated with.
Dettori has partnered many leading ladies during his illustrious career but rarely has he gone to such lengths to maintain a partnership.
His broken shoulder was still mending when he partnered her to glory in the Irish Oaks, and he stuck to a diet of of white fish and water for a week to make the weight and ride her to victory over Sunday’s rival Ulysses in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes soon after.
Waiting for her and Dettori in the winner’s enclosure was Prince Ahmed, one of owner Khalid Abdullah’s sons who had not visited Ascot since Dancing Brave took the same race in 1986. She is some draw card, and the best filly that breeders Juddmonte have produced.Prince Ahmed visited Ascot for the first time for over 30 years just to see Enable win the King George (PA
Enable has illuminated a largely dreary Flat season with four Group One victories, and has proved during the summer that she can turn up anywhere, and on any surface, against any opposition, and still prevail.
She displayed balance and dexterity to win the Oaks at Epsom in a thunderstorm. The Irish Oaks came so easily to her, after which Peslier conceded she was an Arc winner in waiting.
She once again showed a triumphant will at Ascot, when she emulated her sire by slamming Ulysses by four and half lengths just two weeks later. True champions frequently show an ability to win ugly, and her five-length verdict over stable companion Coronet in the Yorkshire Oaks last month was just that. She has even won on the all-weather.
Enable is odds-on to become the sixth filly or mare to land the Arc in the past seven runnings. Let that sink in. Only Golden Horn has struck for the colts since Workforce in 2010.
Timeform make her 3lb clear with improvement to come and so there is only one, nagging little detail preventing us all betting on her as if it is our final wager before Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un contrive to destroy the world on Monday.
Her long campaign.
Enable started training in February, and was undergoing fast work in March before her only defeat on debut in April. Sunday’s 12-furlong contest on soft ground will be her seventh this campaign – only the cast of Strictly have attended more dances.
Short-priced favourites have a tremendous record in the Arc, but that often masks how hard it is to keep these horses going.
“In all the big races everything has to go right, it doesn’t matter who or what you are,” Lord Grimthorpe, the Juddmonte racing manager, said. “If you don’t bring you’re A-Game then, no matter how good you are, you are not going to win.
“That is the hardest thing for people outside racing to understand. They are not machines and you can’t just change the tyres, fill up the oil, or whatever. When a horse is on form it always looks like smooth clockwork, but getting them to the races and in the best shape of mind is not an easy thing to do.”
A busy schedule does not preclude success for a filly or mare in the Arc, however.
Found won 12 months ago on her eighth run of the season. Solemia profited from the wayward Japanese sensation Orfevre in what was her sixth outing in 2012. German challenger Danedream thrashed fellow three-year-old filly Shareta six years ago in a race that was the seventh outing of the year for both of them. Even Akiyda in 1983 won on her sixth start.
Gosden has generally campaigned his best fillies with a Stakhanovite zeal, but none of them signed off their three-year-old seasons with a win.
Taghrooda was third to Treve when sent off the 9-2 favourite on her sixth start in 2014. The Fugue was unfortunate on her seventh and final start of her Classic stanza when boxed in at Santa Anita to finish third at Santa Anita. He ran Dar Re Mi eight times before she was withdrawn on self-certificate from the Pride Stakes at Newmarket.
Gosden is not expecting history to repeat itself.
“She has a remarkable constitution,” he said. “She is very business-like when she races. When she is racing she gets straight in to the zone.
“She has got bigger and stronger and is weighing heavier than she was at the beginning of the season.”
Enable faces 11 other Group One winners and spearheads a small, but select challenge from Britain in tandem with Ulysses, who bids to add to Workforce’s win seven years ago for Sir Michael Stoute.Jim Crowley bids to land his first Arc aboard Ulysses at Chantilly on Sunday (PA)
The French rely largely on Alain De Royer Dupre’s Zarak, Jean-Claude Rouget’s dual Classic winner Brametot and Andre Fabre’s interesting outsider Cloth Of Stars. The Germans could add to Danedream’s recent success with Dschingis Secret, the Prix Foy winner, while Japan may well bust the €37million the country bet on the race 12 months ago with their unlikely hero Satono Diamond.
Last year Chantilly was mobbed by British and Irish racegoers and the biggest threat to Enable’s supremacy is Aidan O’Brien’s quintet.
Thanks largely to Ryan Moore choosing Winter, the dual Guineas-winning filly now vies for second favouritism with Ulysses. O’Brien also sends out last year’s third Order Of St George, St Leger winner Capri and with Idaho and Seventh Heaven the Ballydoyle handler has a decent hand up against Gosden’s ace
Winter hardly brings to the table the best profile, having been defeated last time in the Matron Stakes. She also attempts to become the first since Sumarez in 1990 to win the Arc on her first try over the distance.
Last year it was Moore who carved out his own slice of history by snatching his second Arc win on Found. He was rewarded with a kiss on the lips from Dettori aboard Order Of St George. If Enable beats Winter in a memorable battle of the fillies Moore had better be careful.
Enable - her star-studded path to the Arc:
Low key debut success:
John Gosden gave Enable a low-key debut on the all-weather at Newcastle last November, when she led entering the final furlong and strode away to take a one-mile maiden by three and three-quarter lengths.
Stablemate Shutter Speed too good:
A quiet introduction to 2017 saw Enable make late progress to finish third behind stablemate Shutter Speed in a 10-furlong conditions race at Newbury in April.
Ridden by Frankie Dettori for the first time, Enable showed her Classic potential with an impressive victory in the Cheshire Oaks as she swept Aidan O'Brien's Alluringly aside with the minimum of fuss. Dettori said: "She's a very nice filly, who is improving all the time. She is beginning to know what she is doing. I liked the way she quickened and put the race to bed."
Leading two furlongs out, Enable put her rivals to the sword to run out a facile five-length winner from Rhododendron in the fillies' Classic at Epsom, which was run in driving rain and a thunderstorm. Dettori said: "She pulled away in the last furlong and is a good mare. She's very good. She's still a bit of a frame, but I think she'll get better and better."
After tracking Bengala, Enable went about her business halfway up the straight and passed the post five and a half lengths clear of Rain Goddess in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh. Gosden said: "She's probably the best we've got. She's exceptionally good. She quickens and she stays well. We couldn't be more pleased with her."
Enable was crowned queen in the King George as she beats the colts and older horses in some style with another breathtaking display at Ascot, dispensing of the top-class Ulysses by four and a half lengths. Dettori said: "I haven't had a feel like that since Golden Horn. She's very good. I knew she was up to the task, but I didn't expect her to do that and she destroyed them."
Tour de Yorkshire:
The Yorkshire Oaks proved another cakewalk as Enable made all the running at York and won unchallenged by five lengths. Gosden said: "She's somewhat special, I think at a mile and a half she is the best filly I've ever trained. She's exceptional and able to do it both ways, from the front and off the pace."