Kevin Blake

Enable's winning Arc trial ticked all the boxes bar one, and Kevin points out she'll need to start sharper in France.

  • Monday 07 September
  • Blog

Enable gears up as history awaits

Enable completed her public preparation for next month’s historic bid to win a third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by winning the September Stakes at Kempton - in the style her starting price of 1/14 suggested she should.

When a horse is sent off at 1/14 and wins easily, many opine that there is nothing to learn from such an event. I would tend to differ. There is always the potential to learn something any time a horse steps onto a racecourse and this example is no different.

Enable winning the September Stakes ahead of her historic Arc bid

While Enable fulfilled the most important task of this outing by winning without needing to be extended beyond what Dettori wanted, it wasn’t a perfect performance.

The aspect of it that stood out for me was her start. Enable has almost always been notably sharp from the gates throughout her career, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday. She jumped in the air slightly as the gates opened and forfeited at least three lengths to her sharpest rival. John Gosden suggested the rope used by the stall’s handler that had loaded her, flicked up as it was removed and hit her in the face, resulting in the raising of her head and jumping in the air as the stalls opened. However, analysis of the video of the start casts some doubt on this theory.

There may well have been nothing in it and it may prove to be a one-off, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for older horses to develop a quirk such as this. While Enable is one of the most tactically-versatile stars we’ve seen for quite some time, it would be far from ideal to see such a start repeated in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe where it would be much more heavily punished in what will be a much more competitive environment. It would be a particular negative if she dwelt at the gates from a low draw and Frankie found himself bottled up in traffic as a result.

A rare defeat for Enable in last year's Arc

In terms of a season-long preparation for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, it could readily be argued that this is the best one Enable had since she won it as a three-year-old. She had an interrupted preparation and only one prep run in 2018, while last year she had three proper races in the space of six-and-a-half weeks during mid-summer. This year’s preparation has been more gradual and less arduous. Gosden’s very deliberate move to avoid Love, and a potential gut buster in her final race before the Arc, reinforces the notion he is training her to peak on one day and wants to leave as little to chance as possible.

All being well, Enable will bid for a remarkable piece of history on October 4. Not only will she attempt to become the first-ever horse to win the race on three occasions, she will also bid to become only the second-ever horse to regain the race. We may never see such a feat even attempted in our lifetime. Let’s hope she gets there in top form.

Where are the British entries in the Irish Champions Weekend sprint handicaps?

For many years now, British-trained runners showed quite a sensational record in premier handicaps run over seven furlongs or less in Ireland. There will be two such races run on Irish Champions Weekend later this week, the Sovereign Path Handicap at Leopardstown and the Bold Lad Handicap at the Curragh, and both were no exception in the British domination of these type of races.

When one looks at the six runnings of each of these races since the beginning of Irish Champions Weekend as examples, here are the stats:

There were a total of 234 runners in 12 races, with 56 (24%) of them British-trained. Despite this minority representation, British trainers won eight of the 12 races (66%) and filled 18 of the 36 (50%) first three placings.

While one must acknowledge the inconveniences of travelling horses to Ireland given the Covid-related restrictions, it still surprising that only five British trainers (David O’Meara, Richard Fahey, Archie Watson, Ed de Giles and David Barron) entered a total of 11 horses for the aforementioned two handicaps this weekend.

A week later, the same type of horse will contest what is likely to be a more competitive contest in the shape of the Ayr Gold Cup for a winner’s prize of approximately €52,500. The winners at Leopardstown and the Curragh will earn €73,750.

Irish trainers will rejoice at the widespread shunning of these Irish Champions Weekend handicaps by British trainers, but with prize money being such a hot topic in Britain at the minute, accusations of a lack of endeavour from those with suitable horses are difficult to defend.

Kevin Blake
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