HISTORY IS CALLING, CAN ENABLE ANSWER?
On rare occasions in sport, there are very special events that transcend the normal boundaries of the sport’s appeal and break into the wider public consciousness. They are moments where it is clear to all observers that something genuinely remarkable and historically significant could be about to unfold, the likes of which are unlikely to be seen again for a very long time, if at all.
The world of horse racing is set to have one of those events at Longchamp this Sunday when the superstar mare Enable bids to become the first horse in history to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three times. Seven others have won it twice and Enable is only the third to do so since 1960.
Watch the 2019 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Sunday 6th October.
Already a racing legend, Enable’s chance to secure sporting immortality now beckons.
Of course, these moments don’t always deliver the result that most want to see. One only has to recall Camelot’s narrow defeat in his pursuit of the first Triple Crown for 42 years in Britain or Zenyatta’s agonising failure to complete her unbeaten career in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to know that nothing is a given in sport, even when it seems to be written in the stars.
Indeed, just four years have passed since Treve made her attempt to become the first three-time winner of the Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe only for it to end in disappointment.
However, when it comes to Enable, one couldn’t custom-build a better vehicle on which to carry such historic hopes. Over the course of her 14-race career she has shown herself to be arguably the most bombproof equine champion of recent decades. She can do it all.
Regardless of the pace of the race, her draw, the ground, the trip or the track, Enable has shown herself to be remarkably versatile. Such tactical adaptability combined with her abundant talent means that her rider Frankie Dettori can place his utmost faith in her and ride the race in a safety-first manner that greatly reduces the possibility of things going wrong.
To win any international Group 1 in three consecutive years is a remarkable feat. However, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is no ordinary international Group 1. Year after year, it delivers on its billing as the greatest Group 1 over a mile-and-a-half in the world.
It has attracted at least 16 runners every year for over a decade and it is rare for a top-class middle-distance horse that is fit and well to skip it. There is no hiding place, no soft touches, every single renewal of it is hard won.
That very much promises to be the case on Sunday too, as a host of new rivals including Japan, Sottsass and Ghaiyyath will meet Enable for the first time at Longchamp in an effort to stop her making history.
All three can have persuasive cases put forward for them, but for me, the biggest danger to Enable is Japan. Sure, he had the run of the race to an extent when beating Crystal Ocean in the Juddmonte International at York, but there is a strong suspicion that he will prove even better back at a mile-and-a-half.
Japan also appeals as being a straightforward ride that can adjust to whatever way the Arc pans out in front of his rider. In contrast, Ghaiyyath has produced his two stand-out performances when enjoying an uncontested lead, something which he is unlikely to benefit from on Sunday.
So, will Enable do it? In situations like this, it can be hard to separate views emanating from the head and heart, but I think she will do it. Based on what we’ve been told publicly, Enable has had a far smoother preparation for this year’s Arc than last years.
Indeed, it could be argued that this has been her smoothest Arc preparation yet, with her seeming to have steadily progressed with each outing in a three-run prep that has had the aim of bringing her to a peak for this day more than any other.
While the ground and draw are often notable variables in the Arc, Enable’s aforementioned versatility and adaptability make them less significant in her case whatever they prove to be.
Sunday promises to be a very special day for followers of horse racing. For a horse to be on the brink of something so historic is a very rare thing. This is a moment that could well be discussed and referred to for many, many decades to come. We get to live it. Enjoy every second.