Geoffrey Riddle studies the key questions ahead of Enable's belated return at Kempton on Saturday in the 188Bet September Stakes. Watch below video replays, analysis and out tribute to last year's star.
What shape is Enable in?
Watch Enable win last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
There is no conclusive evidence as to how good, or fit, Enable might be after not being seen in public since she capped her extraordinary season last year with victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.
Enable suffered fluid on the knee in May but has been declared to race against Sir Michael Stoute's Crystal Ocean in the 188Bet September Stakes at Kempton on Saturday, with stable companion Weekender, Peak Princess and Cribbs Causeway the only others in the line-up for the £70,000 contest.
Unlike stablemates such as Roaring Lion, Dreamfield and even Cracksman this season, there has been no racecourse gallop for last season’s star, as she comes up for her first run en route to a repeat bid in Europe’s premier 12-furlong race.
We do not know the extent of the swelling in her knee, or what caused it, but John Gosden says his stable flagbearer is ready to get her hiatus out of her system.
"Enable is fresh in every sense of the word and we were pleased with what we saw this morning," the trainer told the Racing Post on Wednesday.
"It will be nice to get her back on track and the September Stakes falls just right as it's a month before the Arc.
"Hopefully she can get the freshness out of herself there and all roads lead to Paris."
The betting mantra with injured stars is that they never come back, as hope merely forces down the price and there is a small chance we may never see her brilliance again.
If you want to read between the lines, though, and that is often a dangerous place to go, it was interesting that as soon as Frankie Dettori got off stable companion Lah Ti Dar at York two weeks ago he immediately asserted she should run in the St Leger at Doncaster.
You can interprate that in various ways. One is that Enable is going as well as ever at home and that the five-time Group One winner will again take all the beating in the Arc.
You might think that with few decent 12-furlong performers among the three-year-old division, that a tilt at the final Classic of the season was a worthy suggestion.
Either way, connections of Lah Ti Dar have decided instead to take on Enable at the new ParisLongchamp after a run in the Prix Vermeille on Arc Trials day next Sunday.
What can we expect from Enable on Saturday?
I am amazed that Crystal Ocean has stood his ground, and it is testament to the faith placed in David Probert by Sir Michael Stoute that the jockey will get the leg-up - he has ridden only seven winners for the master of Freemason Lodge in the past five years.
Stoute has won the race a record six times and what Crystal Ocean is being prepped for is of interest - is this also a trial for the Arc, for which he is 8-1, or is Stoute eyeing next month's Canadian International, which Crystal Ocean's half-bother Hillstar won in 2014?
Crystal Ocean is the highest-rated horse in the field on 129, with Enable just 1lb behind. Due to the conditions of the race, Enable has no Group One penalties so Crystal Ocean must concede 8lb to her.
With that in mind, and purely on form, Enable does not need to be even close to her best in order to prevail. Indeed, on Timeform Ratings she is 10lb clear. To have any chance of defending her crown at the new ParisLongchamp in a month, however, she will need to be at least 85 per cent.
Both of the main protagonists race best when given a lead, although of the two Enable is the only one to have made all in her career.
Watch Enable make all in last season's Yorkshire Oaks
Gosden has left in Weekender, the Ebor runner-up who is in the same ownership of Enable and likes to bowl along in front. It is not difficult to imagine Kieran O'Neill forcing a decent pace on Weekender, with Frankie Dettori anchoring Enable in behind and Probert tracking the favourite on Crystal Ocean.
What unfolds in the straight will be a matter of how fit Enable is and what ability she retains. The race sponsors make Enable 4-7 to Crystal Ocean's 13-8. If you fancy O'Neill to cause an almighty upset you can get 10-1 about Weekender.
Is Enable a good bet for the Arc at this stage?
Enable is a best-priced 11-2 to follow in Treve’s hoofprints and win back-to-back Arcs as a four-year-old. It is a sign of how in the dark we all are about her wellbeing that she is such a big price – she was sent off at 10-11 when winning easily last season.
The Arc has been won by a filly in seven of the past ten years, and Treve, Found and Solemia all won as four-year-olds. I believe she is better than that trio.
Sea Of Class is 5-1 favourite after her stalk and pounce performances at the Curragh (Irish Oaks) and Knavesmire (Yorkshire Oaks) but, according to Timeform, she lags significantly behind Enable’s level. So, too, does Lah Ti Dar, after her demolition job at York in the Galtres Stakes.
Sea Of Class is rated 123p by Timeform and fellow three-year-old filly Lah Ti Dar is 122p.
Watch our split screen analysis of the Yorkshire Oaks and Galtres Stakes
Enable was 130p at this stage last season, while ahead of their wins as three-year-olds Zarkava and Treve were 129p and German filly Danedream was on 125.
With Cracksman having questions to answer, it is probably worth taking a leap of faith and believing Enable is somewhere near to her best a month away from the sternest test of her career. Otherwise, what would be the point of bringing her back?
Prince Of Wales's Stakes and King George winner Poet’s Word is the other danger, and is 12-1, while Godolphin’s Grand Prix De Deauville winner Loxley is the dark horse of the race and is 20-1.
What do we still not know about Enable?
We found out a lot about Enable last season thanks to Gosden’s adventurous campaigning.
She clearly has a strong constitution, having started her campaign in April and rounded off the season in the Arc six months and the same number of races later.
At Epsom, when she won the Oaks, the going was good but she powered through a thunderstorm as if it was a bright summer’s day. At the Curragh in July, when she won the Irish Oaks, it was on good to firm, whereas at Chantilly the going was soft for the Arc.
She can win off a fast pace, as evidenced by her Epsom performance and in the King George at Ascot and off slower sectionals as she demonstrated in the Yorkshire and Irish Oaks.
We do not yet know whether she is fully effective over ten furlongs, but perhaps she will not be asked to race again over that trip. The only time she has suffered defeat was behind Shutter Speed and Raheen House when she ran far too keenly for William Buick, on her return, at Newbury in April last year and got caught in a pocket. Dettori has ridden her ever since.
She has a lightning turn of foot. In Ireland, she completed the final three furlongs in 33.28sec, according to Simon Rowlands' sectional times, which is the sort of speed the Harry Angel’s of this world finish their final three furlongs.
We are yet to see her settle in midfield off a fast pace – she was in the first three from the outset for all of her six victories last year, but if Dettori can get her to settle better there is every chance she could drop back in trip if required.
Given her ability to travel within herself and quicken, the Breeders’ Cup Turf around the tight turns at Churchill Downs in November, a race which Found also won, would be another possibility if back to her best.
It is easy to forget she has proven form at tight circuits, having the Cheshire Oaks at Chester and she would be the freshest of the lot. The Filly & Mare Turf would be at her mercy and Abdullah has always had a penchant for the self-styled ‘World Championships.’
Her constitution and proven ability to travel would mean the hulking daughter of Nathaniel would have no problems in America. Her sire improved with age and there is every chance she will, too. BetVictor have priced her up at 8-1.
Watch Enable's return in stunning HD on Saturday on Racing UK. Harry Angel also is set to return at Haydock and you can watch it all with a Racing UK membership - sign up now!
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