John Gosden’s superstar is attempting to make history by landing three runnings of the iconic autumn final at ParisLongchamp, a year after she finished second to Waldgeist.
Will she recapture the past glories of 2017 and 2018 by etching her name into sporting folklore, or will she come up short in her quest for immortality?
Below are five reasons why she can deliver a third Arc win under Frankie Dettori on what seems certain to be her farewell appearance and also five reasons why the final chapter of her wonderful story may not have a fairy-tale ending.
1. She is the Queen of Racing
Enable has captured the hearts and minds of racing fans for myriad reasons, but none more so than the fact she is one of the best racehorses of all time. She has won 15 of her 18 starts, has never finished outside of the first three, is a dual Classic winner, a two-time Arc heroine and an 11-time Group One scorer.
22 runners remain in contention for this year’s Arc and on ratings, she is also the best horse in the race. Officially rated 128, she is 3lb clear of stable companion and three-time Gold Cup hero Stradivarius, and 2020 Oaks heroine Love who has an official rating of 122.
Enable has also only been beaten once when racing beyond a mile-and-a-quarter in last year’s Arc to Waldgeist and whilst she was beaten on testing ground in 2019, she goes better on it than others in the race will, particularly her main market rival Love.
2. She’s already won the race twice
It’s an old cliché, but Enable clearly has the Arc t-shirt, having been there and won the contest twice before. Whilst she only narrowly held off Sea Of Class in 2018, what perhaps is more notable is her facile two and a half-length win in the 2017 renewal. Always prominent, she shot clear in the straight and sluiced through soft ground to score.
Despite the heartbreak etched on the face of Frankie Dettori in last year’s Arc, things did not go as smoothly during the race. Given the conditions, it was arguable that Dettori had to commit sooner than he would have liked on Enable and that left the duo vulnerable to a stayer.
Whilst ground conditions were blamed, it has to be remembered that she finished two lengths in front of Waldgeist earlier that season on ground described as Good to Soft, but which was clearly more testing, in the King George at Ascot.
Therefore, tactics are clearly going to be important. With plenty more rain forecast and the ground already very soft at Longchamp, Dettori may play his hand slightly later on Enable this time around. Simultaneously, the ground looks a major negative for Love, Mogul and Raabihah. Stradivarius, given he stays further, and potentially Sottsass, third in last year’s Arc, may enjoy the ground, but Enable handles soft ground and if she handles it better than her main rivals in the betting, she wins.
3. The best prep since 2017
Enable warmed up for this year's Arc in the September Stakes
Another pivotal factor could be her preparation for this year’s race, which to all intents and purposes, has gone very smoothly. We never thought Enable would still be racing as a six-year-old and the sport owes a debt of gratitude to Prince Khalid Abdullah by allowing us to witness her greatness for another season. However, unlike other years, she has essentially been kept in training for one race only, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Even last year, Enable won a Coral-Eclipse, King George and a Yorkshire Oaks before running in the Arc. She was originally scheduled to return in the Coronation Cup or the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, but took up neither of those engagements having been slow to come to hand, something which was also evident in her 2018 campaign.
By contrast, 2020 has gone like clockwork for team Enable. John Gosden remarked that she had taken a little while to get fit given she has been going up the Newmarket gallops since she was two years of age. Most shrewd punters and experts believed that a race-fit Ghaiyyath would have her measure in the Coral-Eclipse, and so it proved. However, Enable showed the benefit of this cautious approach with easy wins in the King George and September Stakes since. Frankie Dettori was delighted with her piece of work last weekend and Enable, given the form she has shown again this summer, should be fully fit and firing for her date with destiny.
4. The Gosden and Dettori factor
There are some sporting greats who can ‘turn it on’ for the big occasion. Paul Gascoigne, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Cristian Ronaldo, Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, Kevin Pietersen, Mo Farah and Sir Chris Hoy among them. However, is there a sportsman who relishes the big occasion quite as much as Frankie Dettori. 24 years on this week from his ‘Magnificent Seven’ at Ascot, the 49-year-old is the ultimate big-race player.
Dettori is of course human and will feel the nerves just as much as the jockey in the stall next to him. However, he is able to transfer those nerves into an unsatiable will to win, something shared by Enable’s trainer.
To use a boxing analogy, Enable has the right people in her corner. Dettori with six and Gosden with three wins in the Arc – with Dettori aboard on all three occasions – highlights their prolific record in the race and why this attempt at history has clear potential.
5. Her talent and will to win
Enable, as she has demonstrated to devastating effect in races like the Oaks, can outclass her opposition, but she also boasts the courage to match her class.
Between her second win in the Arc and runner-up effort in the 2019 renewal at Longchamp, she won five G1s by a margin of a short-neck (2018 Arc), three-quarters of a length (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf), three-quarters of a length (Coral-Eclipse), neck (King George) and two and three-quarter lengths (Yorkshire Oaks)
Enable has an innate desire and will to win. Whether she would prefer quicker ground or wherever she is drawn, it is that desire to come out on top which will again be on show on Sunday.
1. The weight of history
The Arc was first run in 1920 and since then there have been eight dual winners, but there has never been a triple victor.
Treve in 2015 is the only horse to seek a third win in the race and Enable will become the first horse to run four times in an Arc, having already won two renewals.
Treve also raced three times in the build-up to that year’s Arc but was only third to another Gosden-Dettori superstar, Golden Horn.
Enable shares a current place in history with the likes of Alleged, Tantieme, Corrida and the aforementioned Treve as a two-time winner. However, poetic justice would be secured with a third success and maybe on this occasion, history is there to be broken.
2. It must be Love or Stradivarius or Sottsass or something else?
At one point, this year’s Arc looked like being the race of the season. However, with Mishriff, Ghaiyyath and Magical now heading elsewhere, the quality on show has taken a slight dip. Despite that, Love looks the most formidable threat to face Enable. She has looked every inch a superstar with three successive Group One victories this term in the 1000 Guineas, Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. The very soft ground is clearly a concern for Love with Aidan O’Brien suggesting on numerous occasions this year that it would dent her ability, but she is just one of the dangers.
Stable companion Stradivarius will be partnered by Olivier Peslier and would also prefer a quicker surface. However, he stays at least another mile and his stamina-laden qualities look sure to come into play, despite finishing second to Anthony Van Dyck in the Prix Foy over course and distance last time out.
The progressive In Swoop, a winner on soft ground, last year’s Arc third Sottsass and of course Moulin hero Persian King, a fascinating runner given he represents eight-time Arc winner Andre Fabre, are all dangers highlighting that this will be no easy feat for Enable.
3. No six-year-old has won the Arc
A quite phenomenal statistic and yet another piece of history which Enable will have to overcome. No horse in the history of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe has ever won the 12-furlong contest as a six-year-old. Motirco was seven in 1932 and Waldgeist was five last year. However, Walgeist was one of just four horses since 1975 to win the contest aged five.
With that in mind, history is clearly not on Enable’s side and it does not augur well for this year’s contest.
4. Could tactics play a part?
For the first time, arguably since Found won the Arc in 2016, Aidan O’Brien has a horse running in the race with a favourite’s chance.
The master of Ballydoyle has only won the race twice, with Dylan Thomas his other winner in 2007 and he could launch a five-pronged assault on Longchamp. Japan, who has disappointed this term, recent Grand Prix de Paris hero Serpentine, 2019 Irish Derby winner Sovereign and Love all look set to run. However, team Ballydoyle could also supplement Serpentine who add a different flavour to the race. Compared to his runaway win in the Derby at Epsom, he was ridden with greater restraint off an extended break in the Grand Prix de Paris last time out when only fourth.
It looks very likely that Serpentine or Sovereign will be ridden positively to make this a stiff test of stamina, something which suited Love when stablemate Passion took the field along at a good clip in the Oaks. Thus, with Serpentine perhaps gifted an early lead up front, could be tough to peg back or will he force Dettori into committing too early. The ability for this race to get very tactical is therefore something to be mindful of.
5. Ground and possible nerves from Dettori?
As alluded to in this piece already, testing ground conditions will clearly be a concern for Enable, given it looks likely to blunt her devastating finishing speed. However, perhaps a more interesting factor is the pressure on the shoulders of Frankie Dettori.
Enable means everything to Dettori. Having resurrected his career in recent years, John Gosden’s superstars such as Golden Horn, Stradivarius and Enable provided the Italian with a new lease of life and Dettori has clearly relished every minute.
However, the pressure has clearly started to tell more on Dettori of late. The exultation matched by relief on his face after the 2019 King George was twinged with the anguish after Enable’s defeat in last year’s Arc.
Dettori is a man who transcends the sport and is truly racing’s biggest superstar. He knows the weight of expectation on his shoulders on Sunday. Whilst he has been channelling those nerves in a positive way up to now, the stakes have never been higher and with Ballydoyle also looking to make life difficult, Enable could also meet trouble in-running. Dettori will probably view this as the biggest ride of his career.
One thing’s for sure – it promises to be a thrilling climax to the career of a wonderful racemare.
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