Only the very best are awarded a hero’s reception in moments of defeat – and the faithful in Paris did not disappoint in giving Enable a rapturous welcome after falling just short of a record third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe success.
The thousands that made the journey from Britain to see Frankie Dettori and the undisputed star of Flat racing attempt to claim a place in the history books may have been left deflated as Waldgeist swooped to glory, but rarely will a loss have been greeted like a victory.
Finding a spot to greet the John Gosden-trained daughter of Nathaniel back after having to settle for second best in a race she has made her own in the past two years was a difficult task, and those that did manage to take up a position outside the winner’s enclosure made their feelings known.
Gosden said: “It was lovely (the reception) she got, and she got shouted out going out, too.
“It’s great for racing and I’m sorry we couldn’t quite pull it off, but when I walked the track with Frankie and the stick was going in that far (around a foot) I thought, ‘Houston, we have got a problem here’.
“I deal with it as she is fine after the race and looks great down there. The winning horse I have a lot of respect for and the owner-breeder and to Andre (Fabre). We were beaten by a better horse on the day in the conditions and it didn’t come as a surprise to me.”
For a fleeting moment down the home straight it looked as though Enable would do it, as she swiftly put daylight between herself and the field when hitting the front – but for Gosden he was always concerned the ground may have the impact it ultimately did.
He said: “If the ground had been like last year, good to soft, I would have been very disappointed to finish second, but I could see this sucker punch coming and I take nothing away from the winner who is an absolutely brilliant horse.
“I did make the point before the race she has this great turn of foot from the 400 (metre marker) to the finish line and that is going to be blunted in the ground, which it was. Just stamina gave out with her over that trip in the intensity and pace of the race. I think it is as simple as that.”
The Newmarket handler was not the only one pointing to the ground as the main reason behind Enable’s defeat.
Dettori said: “The first bit of the race I let her find her feet and she came good to me in the false straight. I waited until the 300 and I didn’t find as much as I thought I had left and I just folded a bit and the winner was just too good for me today.
“My filly was really tired, to be honest with you. Passing the 200 I was a spent force then. I think the ground has got a lot to do with it.
Despite the Khalid Abdullah-owned five-year-old having her colours lowered for just the second time in her career, Gosden was still pleased by the effort from one of the greatest mares ever to grace a racecourse.
He added: “I’m thrilled with her performance and I knew when the extra rain came, and I did say to people before the race, we just lost our most potent weapon – the turn of foot from the 400. She just ran out of stamina in the last half-furlong. It was a great run and I’m very proud of her.”
It remains to be seen whether Enable is given another outing or if time is called on her glittering career. That is a decision that Gosden made clear will be left until another day.
He said: “I made that clear, that we will leave it a few days to see if Prince Khalid would like to run her again or retire her. It’s his decision.
“He always likes to know how they come out of the race, physically and mentally. We will make a decision from there and I shouldn’t think that will come for a week.”