Frankie Dettori was uncharacteristically restrained as Enable pulled five lengths clear of odds-on favourite Rhododendron in the Investec Oaks at Epsom on Friday.
The oldest rider out of the ten jockeys had been in this territory before, having won previously with Balanchine, Moonshell and Kazzia and the naturally exuberant Italian thought he had enough time as he approached the finish to express himself.
Before the £500,000 contest, however, Epsom had been engulfed by a thunderstorm that had been promised all day, and boy did it deliver.
Lightning, thunder and driving rain were enough to put Donnacha O’Brien on his bottom from the back of Pocketfullofdreams in front of the gates as the 25,000 crowd audibly gasped at a boisterous thunder clap. Olivier Peslier had to jump ship from the wild American raider Daddys Lil Darling, who did not have the assistance of a pony as she would back home, going down to the start.
This was a Classic assignment like few before, testing nerves and skill to the limit.
“She pulled away in the last furlong,” Dettori said.
(Watch how Olivier Peslier decided jumping off Daddys Lil Darling was a better option than staying on board)
“The conditions were so bad that I dare not take my hands off the reins and celebrate. I thought ‘just gallop past the line and celebrate afterwards’.”
Naturally, Dettori performed his flying dismount, and although he has Cracksman to look forward to in the Investec Derby on Saturday, Enable is the sort of filly that could well light up his entire season.
This was Enable’s fourth run, and despite the good ground and heavy rain she managed to stop the clock at 2min 34.13sec - faster than any other filly to have taken her chance on the Downs in the modern era.
As a daughter of Nathaniel, who has beaten old rival Frankel to a first Classic victory as a sire, Enable is clearly a top-class prospect.
Gosden trained Nathaniel to win a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2011 and won that same race three years later with the filly Taghrooda, to whom he compared Enable favourably afterwards.
There is no Minding or Postponed this summer due to injury and Almanzor’s return has been delayed by illness.
It remains to be seen whether the Derby can throw up a crack three-year-old colt to take her on.
Highland Reel, who won the Coronation Cup earlier on the card in some style, would rate a significant threat, while stablemate Jack Hobbs is another notable opponent.
Enable is a best-priced 8-1 to win Britain’s mid-summer highlight, while she is 14-1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“You obviously have races like the Irish Oaks and you might want to do a Taghrooda with her, but you’d have to take on Highland Reel in the King George, whether you want to do that with a three-year-old filly at the weights, these are all things we have to think about,” Gosden said. "And then there is a big old race at the end of the year, so we don’t want to over race.
“We have some lovely middle distance fillies and I thought last year the fillies were better than the colts. Look at Ballydoyle, they have had Found and Minding.
"We run a couple of nice colts tomorrow, but you look at the quality in the field today and it is so recognisable. Tomorrow is a fabulous race, but there is no Rhododendron there. I was absolutely terrified of her.”
Enable’s record time was the product of Donnacha O’Brien setting a furious pace that resulted in the youngest and most inexperienced rider in the field galloping six lengths clear in the early stages.
The classy Sobetsu and William Buick kept O’Brien honest in second, while Dettori was content to track the pace in third.
Whatever connections said beforehand, Sobetsu did not appear to stay under these unique conditions and Buick revealed afterwards that the Prix Saint-Alary winner simply did not turn up.
In the straight Moore timed his run to coincide with Pocketfullofdreams’s petrol tank emptying dramatically and just outside the two pole Dettori and Moore settled down to a battle royal. There is a suspicion that Rhododendron would be best over 10 furlongs.
“Rhododendron ran a good race and the winner is a very good filly,” Moore conceded. “We just got outstayed today."
Enable showed that she can stay every inch of the Oaks trip, and probably further. She has shown that in driving rain and difficult circumstance she can perform to a high level.
It will also be fascinating to see how Shutter Speed, who beat her fair and square at Newbury in April, fares in the Juddmonte silks in the Prix De Diane on June 18.
“They really set a good gallop and Classics should be run at a good pace,” Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, said.
“I think the whole idea, for us, is that we are trying to find out if we are good enough and to find a horse to breed off. That is the whole ethos of racing. Prince Khalid’s raison d’etre is to breed top-class horses and race them.”
Watch a full replay of the Investec Oaks won by Enable at Epsom on Friday
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