John Gosden believes anything less than her brilliant best will not suffice for Enable in her bid to claim an unprecedented third victory in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The remarkable mare has won 13 of her 14 starts to date – a tally that includes 10 Group One victories.
She completed the English-Irish Oaks double in 2017 and has since claimed two victories in both the King George and Yorkshire Oaks, as well as in Europe’s premier middle-distance contest – with triumphs in the Eclipse and the Breeders’ Cup Turf thrown in for good measure.
She endured a troubled campaign on her way to claiming a narrow success over the ill-fated Sea Of Class in Paris 12 months ago – and Gosden feels she will need to better that performance if she is to become the first three-time winner in the history of the great race shown live on Sky Sports Racing on Sunday.
“I don’t think she would be winning it off the form of last year – she will have to be in top form to win it,” said the Clarehaven handler.
“She had a difficult year last year as she came back from surgery. She came back and won well at Kempton, in probably the best race run on the all-weather with Crystal Ocean. We than ran into a blip.”
With so much on the line, Gosden has unsurprisingly assessed the opposition with a fine tooth comb, and is wary of several dangers.
He said: “I think it is a very good race. You have the best three-year-old in France in the form of Sottsass and you also have Japan, who is looking like the best three-year-old colt right now.
“You have those two to contend with, and you have to give them weight, and then you have Waldgeist, who Andre (Fabre) tells me is training better than ever as a five-year-old and he is taking work like he has never done before.
“Then you have the best-looking older horse in Ghaiyyath, who as we know came right back to his best in Germany, when he destroyed the field. There is every reason to say he has found his way again having lost it in the spring in the Ganay – he is a mighty rival.”
While Gosden is clearly respectful of Enable’s rivals, he is hopeful her potent combination of physical and mental strength will make her a tough nut to crack.
He added:”She has got a great, powerful physique and she has great depth. She has a wonderful mind on her and is very competitive.
“She is very strong in her thinking. She is very clever now – as she has got older she has got cagey and cleverer in her tactics.”
Enable carries the colours of Khalid Abdullah, who has already enjoyed a joint-record six Arc victories – with Enable preceded on the roll of honour by Rainbow Quest (1985), Dancing Brave (1986), Rail Link (2006) and Workforce (2010).
The owner-breeder’s long-time racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, is under no illusions about the weight of expectation Enable will carry.
He said: “It’s great to see her jumping off the back pages a little bit. From a racing point of view, she is a special article, as you don’t often get the longevity with the Flat horses.
“I think from Prince Khalid downward at Juddmonte, there is not a single word that can describe it all really. It’s been a pleasure, an honour and exciting. For her to do it would be extraordinary.
“I think if you sat down and tried to build up the race, all the right horses are in it and everyone seems to be turning up, unfortunately!
“From that point of view it looks tough, but then I don’t remember an easy Arc. It is always going to be tough because of the very nature of the race in that it is towards the end of the season.
“In great races nothing is going backwards, and the gaps that may appear in lesser races do not necessarily appear in the Arc.”
Sunday’s race is widely expected to be Enable’s last, but talk of retirement is on hold until after she crosses the finishing line.
“It will be up to Prince Khalid what happens after the Arc, but nothing has been discussed,” Grimthorpe added.
“There’s no point talking about it yet – we will have to see how it unfolds and go from there.”