John Gosden is wary and respectful of Enable’s high-class opponents as she bids to regain her crown in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine proved she has lost none of her brilliance when making a successful start to her campaign in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown three weeks ago, and will bring the house down if she can follow up in Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated Ascot showpiece.
The daughter of Nathaniel produced a devastating display in the 2017 King George, and she is a red-hot favourite to become the third dual winner after Dahlia (1973 and 1974) and Swain (1997 and 1998).
However, with Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck and proven top-class performer Crystal Ocean among those lying in wait, Gosden is under no illusions about the task at hand.
“Enable won the King George as a three-year-old filly getting weight, just as Taghrooda (2014) did,” said the Clarehaven handler.
“It is a little different when you’re older and suddenly you have a Derby winner coming at you – who’s getting the weight – and a magnificent older horse in Crystal Ocean, who ran a blinder last year and won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes well last month.
“This is no penalty kick, absolutely not. It is a really exciting race with a deep field. Obviously Enable and Crystal Ocean set the standard, and then you have the three-year-olds getting the allowances.
“Enable is up for it, but I just don’t think it is the formality that is indicated (by the betting).”
Enable was unable to defend her title 12 months ago during a troubled summer, and Gosden feels it is testament to both her ability and attitude that she has overcome that adversity to cement her star status.
“She is a pleasure to be around and is a great filly,” he said.
“She had a difficult year last year, and came back from injury and surgery and sickness between the Kempton and the Arc – and still managed to do the job.
“We’ve had a smoother run this year. She has maintained her enthusiasm for racing and really enjoys her work – and as long as Frankie (Dettori) stops training her and I’m allowed to train her and he rides her, we might get there!”
Enable was making her belated return in the Coral-Eclipse, having missed the Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot.
Gosden admits it has taken a while for his star filly to re-discover her mojo this season.
“She didn’t appreciate the cold east winds in the spring, so we delayed her comeback,” he added.
“We talked about the Coronation (Cup) and Ascot, but I was keen to run from July onwards – because if you run early, you have to have a mid-season break.
“I think coming back to a mile and a quarter was an issue at Sandown, and coming off a long lay-off of eight months.
“I didn’t take her away for a racecourse gallop – she did all her work in Newmarket – and I would say it wasn’t until we got her on a gallop she likes, the round gallop on the Limekilns, that she showed her zest and old spark.
“Prior to then she was like the heavyweight boxer trying to get ready for a championship. They’ve been in the gym and running the roads – it is tough mentally to get yourself back to that.
“I think she had done what a lot of heavyweights had done – just quietly go through the motions. The last two weeks before Sandown, you saw all her passion coming out for racing and training.”
A big part of the Enable story is, of course, Dettori.
The popular Italian is enjoying another magnificent campaign and has partnered the filly to all but one of her 11 career victories – and Gosden admits his stable jockey is riding on the crest of a wave.
He said: “Like any rider, I suppose if you are Lewis Hamilton and you are driving a car like that, you get in the zone, get your confidence and you are not frightened of anything.
“It doesn’t mean there is not a banana skin around every corner – but having said that, he is riding well.”
Considering plans for his stable star beyond Saturday, Gosden added: “She will either go for the Yorkshire Oaks or Juddmonte International. I like to run in a race and wait 10 days afterwards to start thinking about what we will do.”
Dettori may have seen and done it all, but admits he is feeling the pressure for Enable’s latest big-race assignment.
“I am feeling good and excited for the King George, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling nervous,” the jockey told Ladbrokes.
“I ride one of the best and most loved horses in the world in Enable. As I expected, everyone has turned up for the race – and in these big races you never get a freebie.
“I just hope that she will show her stuff. Now that she’s had a race, she is race-fit. I rode her on Wednesday, and she was in good form.
“Obviously, Crystal Ocean is an improving horse, and I won the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes with him. We have the Derby winner too, so it’s not going to be a walkover.
“However, we know what Enable is capable of, so my fingers are crossed that everything goes well.”