READY, WILLING AND ENABLE
Last season’s Horse of the Year Enablelifted the 2018 Flat campaign further by making a classy winning return in the Group 3 September Stakes at Kempton’s all-weather track on September 9th. John Gosden’s stable star went on to record a ready 3½ lengths success over Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive performer Crystal Ocean, setting herself up beautifully for a defense of her Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe crown at ParisLongchamp on October 7th.
The life-loving daughter of Nathaniel was belatedly making her first start in 342 days, 342 days since her runaway Arc victory at Chantilly where she was a cosy 2½ lengths winner of one of the world’s greatest middle-distance contests. Her return to racing in 2018 had been hampered by training setbacks, “filling in her knee” was found in early May, with rest prescribed by the stable’s vet.
Post-race on Saturday, her trainer John Gosden also hinted the four-year-old was caught up in a suspected well-contained bug that some of the yard’s lodgers contracted earlier in the season. We know another filly in Lah Ti Dar was one horse affected.
Those hindrances now look behind Enable, thankfully, as Saturday’s return impressed on the eye. Despite getting a little warm pre-race – something she was maybe entitled to do with the full flow of race-day adrenalin back in her veins – there was so much to like. Under Frankie Dettori, Enable jumped smart and made all – she travelled nicely with her ears pricked, but when asked to pick up without the aid of the whip, she did so in a classy, gritty and relentless style.
Once asked to come off the bridle, Khalid Abdullah’s filly pinned her ears back, changed her legs and just poured on the pressure, pressure of which Crystal Ocean couldn’t live with. Once in full stride, she maintained a good gallop all the why to the line appearing to be in a lovely rhythm up the straight. All in all, she could do no more and it would appear to be a perfect trial for the Arc.
In terms of form, I think it would be fair to say Enable was comfortably below her best – somewhat expected - but that’s not a negative in anyway given the journey she had encountered to get to Saturday’s race. In fact, it’s a positive, because despite the setbacks she had faced before making a winning return, she has still run to a top-class level. With John Gosden saying she was “80-85%” fit, there is room to improve, and she’ll need to if she is going to win her second Arc. Here’s why.
For a start, in winning the September Stakes, Enable was in receipt of 8lb from the runner-up, Crystal Ocean, while she also got the complete run of the race from the front. Come Arc day, she will be 5lb worse off with Sir Michael Stoute’s runner in a much more competitive field. And that there is a potentially significant stumbling block for Enable; the 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe will likely be a much stronger race than the one she won last year, should all the main protagonists line up.
Furthermore, she will not receive the three-year-old weight-for-age allowance of 7lb, an allowance which is considered generous over the 12f trip, and must give weight away to all horses except four-year-old and older colts. Last year’s defeat of Cloth Of Stars, whom she got 10lb from, hasn’t worked out where Andre Fabre’s horse is concerned.
Enable did beat a proper Group 1 colt in Ulysses back in third, but he was keen enough on ground too soft over a trip that clearly stretches his stamina. I think it’s fair to say last year’s Arc, as a whole, hasn’t worked out, but then again, she did win by a ready 2½ lengths and was likely value for a bit more.
Should Cracksman, Crystal Ocean, Lah Ti Dar, Poet’s Word and Sea Of Class compete against her – among others – she may have to improve on last year’s success to win back-to-back Arcs like the great Treve did in 2013-14. In the above quintet mentioned, we have a diverse mix of genuine top-class horses.
Over the last decade, a quartet of three-year-old fillies have won the Arc; Zarkava (2008), Danedream (2011), Treve (2013) and Enable (2017) meaning the likes of Sea Of Class and stablemate Lah Ti Dar – as well as the seemingly forgotten Forever Together - may give her most to think about, where history is concerned.
Countering that, a trio of four-year-old fillies have been crowned at Longchamp (Found won at Chantilly) in October over the same time frame; Solemia (2012), Treve (2014) and Found (2016).
We must go back 11 years for the last four-year-old colt to win an Arc, Dylan Thomas for Aidan O’Brien and Kieren Fallon, which doesn’t bode well for the likes of Cracksman, Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word, historically, but in a pure form context concerning Enable, I’d be confident this trio of colts – at their best – would be better horses than Cloth Of Stars. And Enable, this year, would only get 3lb (sex allowance) from this trio as opposed to the 10lb (age and sex allowance) she got from Cloth Of Stars.
Proper discussion of this year’s Arc winner is for another day with some important trial races yet to come. The weekend just gone was all about getting one of the game’s superstars back. Enable is European racing’s poster girl in nearly every regard; her thirst for being an athlete is infectious, combined with her will to win and an unbeaten-in-seven record, she has the magnetic capabilities to draw in fans and keep them here. While a shame for her to have missed so much of the season, it’s great to have her back.
RESPECT TO THE MAN
I don’t mind admitting it, I’ve never really warmed to Saturday’s Haydock Sprint Cup winner The Tin Man. He’s a pretty run-of-the-mill Group 1 sprinter in terms of ability, often operating around the 115 mark, and often looking vulnerable pre-race to classier types.
When on their game, the likes of Muhaarar, Merchant Navy and Harry Angel have simply outclassed him in the past, but this still hasn’t stopped James Fanshawe’s stable star winning a Group 1 for the last three seasons running. And you know what? I must tip my cap to him.
He is now the winner of nine of his 20 races and has amassed prize money of £1,180,676 for his owners, the Fred Archer Racing syndicate. The son of Equiano has taken his owners to some of the biggest meetings in British racing, and now can boast being the winner of the British Champions Sprint Stakes, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and the Haydock Sprint Cup – all Group 1 races.
He may substitute raw class for consistency, but he’s now won more Group 1 races than his much-heralded foe Harry Angel, for all he’s had more goes at doing so. The Tin Man won’t go down as one of the game’s best sprinters, but you’d dearly love to own a horse like him. Kudos to all concerned.