Kevin Blake

Leading racing writer Kevin Blake discusses the return of Enable in the September Stakes and the disappointing performance of Harry Angel in the Haydock Sprint Cup.

  • Monday 10 September
  • Blog
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ENABLE BACK WITH A BANG

Wasn’t it wonderful to see Enable make such an impressive return in the September Stakes at Kempton on Saturday? Long-term followers of horse racing will have experienced many an anti-climax when a star returned after an injury-enforced absence only for them to prove to be a shadow of their former self, but there wasn’t a hint of that this time.

A potential tactical spanner was thrown in Enable’s works when her stable mate and assumed pacemaker Weekender had to be withdrawn on the morning of the race, but Frankie Dettori was content to allow Enable make her own running. The enthusiasm with which she embraced that task was a joy to behold and she raced with the demeanour of a filly that was just delighted to be back doing what she does best.

Try as Crystal Ocean did to close the gap, he never looked like doing so to a meaningful extent. He may have been trying to give away a 5lb Group 2 penalty to her, but the race offered ample evidence that Enable would have prevailed with a bit to spare even if Crystal Ocean had been unpenalised.

As comebacks go, it was a near faultless one. With Frankie Dettori having got the fractions right on her and not having needed to resort to his whip, one can only imagine that she will bounce out of the race eager for greater challenges. Her next destination will almost certainly be ParisLongchamp for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and this performance will have struck fear into the connections of her rivals.

Not only did she look as good as ever, she will arrive to Longchamp a fresh horse that John Gosden can be relied on to have peaked to the second, which will make her a formidable rival for anything that turns up against her.

Enable wins at Kempton
Kevin was impressed with Enable's return to action in the September Stakes

Indeed, when one goes looking for a hole in her prospects, it isn’t easy to find one. With her being proven on both soft and good-to-firm ground, her connections will not be weather watching nearly as much as others will be.

While the big field and fiercely-competitive nature of the Arc can occasionally result in luck in running being a big factor in the result, Enable has shown a tactical versatility that makes her far more adaptable to whatever circumstances will unfold around her in the early stages of the race. At this stage, she looks bombproof.

Looking further ahead, wouldn’t it be wonderful if John Gosden and Prince Khalid Abdullah kept Enable rolling after the Arc and sent her even further afield? The Breeders’ Cup Turf and maybe even the Hong Kong Vase would be the obvious options, but one wonders what they will do after that.

Prince Khalid has already made some very sporting decisions to keep horses in training for longer than others would in the last decade, the most obvious example being Frankel. Given that he kept his last top-class racemare Midday in training as a five-year-old, there must be a great chance that Enable could be kept in training in 2019.

If she can indeed win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for the second time next month, the prospect of winning it a third time might just be too hard for Prince Khalid to resist. That would be a wonderful prospect for the sport of horse racing.

TIME FOR HARRY ANGEL TO RETURN TO FIVE FURLONGS

The European sprinting division is in a strange spot at the minute, as its two outstanding performers Battaash and Harry Angel have significant vulnerabilities to go along with their talent that make them far from reliable propositions on any given day.

That reality was illustrated once again on Saturday with the free-going Harry Angel responding aggressively to being taken on for the lead in the Sprint Cup and having no more to give in the closing stages.

Prior to Saturday, much had been made of Harry Angel’s unbeaten record at tracks not called Ascot. The insinuation is that he doesn’t like Ascot, but the more logical conclusion is that six furlongs at that track is just a stronger than optimal test of stamina for him, with sharper tests at that trip having proven to be much more suitable.

Ever since his second-place finish in the Commonwealth Cup last season, I have strongly suspected that a return to five furlongs would suit him even better than a speed-focused six-furlongs, but he has of yet not been given the opportunity to test that theory.

Indeed, it has been a surprise that dropping Harry Angel back to five furlongs has never seemingly been on the agenda, with him not even having been entered in either of the last two renewals of the Nunthorpe. I have been told that his connections have not done so as they feel that letting him rip over five furlongs could send him the wrong way in the mental terms going forward.

However, there may well be some light at the very end of the tunnel for those of us that would love to see Harry Angel do his thing over the minimum trip. Last month he was entered in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in October and that would surely make more appeal than the alternative of running in the British Champions Sprint over the stiff six furlongs at Ascot on ground that is likely to be on the soft side of good.

Given that his next start could well be the final start of his career before he retires to stud, any considerations of the long-term implications of running him over five furlongs should no longer be an issue. They would certainly seem to have more to gain than lose by trying it.

Kevin Blake
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