Declan Rix

Declan Rix recaps on Enable's successful return to action in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, but is already looking forward to what may be the clash of the season in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

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ENABLE’S ECLIPSE VICTORY TEES UP BIG KING GEORGE CLASH WITH CRYSTAL OCEAN

Saturday saw the return of Flat racing’s number one equine draw in Enable, and she didn’t disappoint in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, overcoming a 245-day break to beat old foe Magical by a ready three-quarters of a length.

The dual Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine took the preliminaries in her stride on a warm July afternoon before showing all her old enthusiasm in the race itself, travelling with her accustomed vigour in the hands of Frankie Dettori, last off the bridle, before quickening up and putting the race to bed nicely.

The well-backed favourite never looked in any real danger, but she did change her legs half-a-furlong out, likely in need of the run, giving her fans a split-second worry, but ultimately, the daughter of Nathaniel, who himself won an Eclipse (2012) on seasonal debut for John Gosden, was pretty impressive all variables considered.

Not only in overcoming the hard-fit, two-time top-level winner Magical, who she also beat in last season’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs, off an absence; the fact Enable managed to do so over 10f on fast, summer ground needs applauding.

Enable wins the Coral-Eclipse
Enable has her Eclipse rivals on the stretch under Frankie Dettori

There is little doubt that over 12f on a less slick terrain compared to Sandown, Enable has produced her very best in the past so, to win a top-level contest like the Eclipse on her seasonal return just adds to an already exceptional CV, a CV that very few equines in the history of horse racing could hold a candle to.

The 5yo mare is now unbeaten in her last 10 career starts, eight of those coming at Group 1 level. While her natural ability, toughness and professionalism have played a vital part, the role of her trainer John Gosden – and his team at Clarehaven Stables – deserve significant recognitions.

We saw patience in Enable’s juvenile career with a single winning start. Her busy Classic campaign which featured seven runs – five winning ones at the top level - from April to October – was another outstanding handling feat from Gosden. To keep any horse, especially a filly, at the top of her game for that long is incredible.

The Master of Clarehaven’s patience was again warranted last season when Enable was found with heat in her knee. The Juddmonte Farms-bred and Khalid Abdullah-owned star only made it to the track for the first time in September due to her set-back, but made it a winning one, easily dismissing the top-class King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes runner-up Crystal Ocean by 3½ lengths, for all she got a huge 8lb in weight.

The rest, as they say, is history where 2018 was concerned, as Enable went on to land her second Arc before becoming the first horse ever to win the Arc and the Breeders’ Cup Turf in the same season.

Her connections must now plot a path back to ParisLongchamp, France for Enable to win an unprecedented third Arc. The exceptional filly Treve tried and failed to do similar in 2015, when the brilliant 3yo colt Golden Horn – trained by John Gosden – took the race.

For Enable, it sounds like the King George is next, then a trip to York for either the Juddmonte Stakes or Yorkshire Oaks before the Arc. While plenty attention will no doubt surround her third Arc bid, a clash between Enable and Crystal Ocean in the King George at Ascot will hopefully gather huge momentum and media attention on the run-up.

With regards racing in Europe/Britain, this is the biggest clash thoroughbred racing can offer its fans at the moment. It’s truly of heavyweight proportions and deserving of a huge Ascot crowd for a race that deserves to get back to the level of its former glory.

While general odds of 4/6 vs 7/2 for the race suggest Enable will take the contest comfortably, it remains fact that she hasn’t reproduced the levels of her 2017 Oaks, King George and Arc victories where she received weight-for-age and a fillies’ allowance in the latter two contests.

Now, as already touched upon, last season obviously didn’t go to plan for the outstanding mare with a couple of setbacks curbing her potential progression and likely not allowing her to show peak form, but her return on Saturday was again someway short of her 2017 levels and on a line through Magical this campaign, Crystal Ocean will give Enable a race at Ascot, a track he adores.

Crystal Ocean wins at Royal Ascot
Declan is excited by the potential clash of Crystal Ocean and Enable

Again, there is the obvious caveat and case to say that Enable was never going to produce her very best on seasonal debut over 10f on quick ground with a backend target as her main aim, and that’s fair and very much a trail of thought I buy into, but plenty will give Crystal Ocean little chance and that trail of thought is naïve.

This a huge clash and while Enable is the most likely winner, it’s the unpredictability of sport that will hopefully garner huge interest between two top-class horses. 

Declan Rix
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