Talent, toughness and priceless enthusiasm: Enable had them all

Mon 12 Oct 2020

By Keith Hamer, PA Sport

Enable has to rank as a phenomenon in the annals of Turf history.

Her record in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – only once finishing out of the first two in four consecutive appearances in Europe’s premier middle-distance contest – is second to none.

She must not be judged on her second failed bid to become the first horse to lift that coveted prize three times. Her sixth place on ground she hated and in a race that clearly was not run to suit, was the first time she had been out of the first three in her entire career.

Just think back to July when she made history by becoming the first horse to win Britain’s premier mile-and-a-half all-aged race, the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, three times.

It may be true few have been given the opportunity to keep on racing for so long, but that cannot simply be down to the best colts being retired to go on to a lucrative stallion career.

A horse’s soundness and constitution, plus priceless enthusiasm for training and racing, count for so much. Enable had all those assets in bucketloads.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, very few thoroughbreds can boast her record of Group One triumphs in the UK, Ireland, France and the United States.

Frankie Dettori, who rode her in the last 17 of her 19 career starts, summed it up when he said she has taken him to more places emotionally than any other horse. That speaks volumes.

Her undoubted talent and longevity meant the public took her to their hearts. Enable and Dettori – a household name for many years – were the perfect match. The brilliant jockey has never hidden his feelings about her.

Rarely do top-class Flat horses, certainly in Europe, have careers lasting three seasons, let alone five. For the John Gosden-trained daughter of Nathaniel to last that long is not only testament to the horse herself, but also the team that have looked after her so well.

Her owner Khalid Abdullah’s part has been a massive one, too, in having the sportsmanship in keeping her going, especially after she suffered an agonising defeat to Waldgeist when attempting an unprecedented hat-trick in the Arc 12 months ago.

Abdullah has seen his colours carried by so many brilliant horses, such as Dancing Brave and Frankel.

The former won the Arc in 1986, but like all top colts, he was whisked off to stud at the end of his three-year-old campaign.

It has always seemed more likely that if a horse was to win three Arcs, it would be from the female division and Enable was only the second horse to try – the first was Treve five years ago.

The latter made a gallant attempt but had to settle for fourth place behind Golden Horn – ridden by Dettori and trained by Gosden.

Enable was the eighth horse to win two Arcs, with the other seven including Ribot (1955-56) and Alleged (1977-78), in the Paris showpiece that was first run 100 years ago.

To win one Arc can be the pinnacle of a horse’s career and its swansong. Mill Reef (1971) and Sea The Stars (2009) capped campaigns at Longchamp in their Derby-winning year.

The mighty Sea Bird II (1965) was another never-to-be forgotten champion to score in Paris and win the hearts of racing fans, but briefly.

It is impossible to compare Enable to those brilliant colts, but equine females have made their mark in several countries around the globe.

America had its own wonder filly in the last decade in Zenyatta, whose only defeat came in the last of her 20 races.

Australia has been blessed with two superstar mares in recent times. First there was Black Caviar. Not only did she have a 100 per cent record of 25 wins, but connections took the brave step of bringing her to the UK and it paid off with victory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in 2012.

Winx was the latest darling of the Southern Hemisphere with an amazing 33 consecutive victories in a career that spanned five years and finally ended in April 2019. No less than 25 of her wins came at the top level and over a variety of distances.

Enable can be spoken in the same breath as all the horses mentioned but, in her division, she stands alone and will forever be recognised as a true queen in the sport of kings.

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