John Gosden is confident Enable is back “in the zone” as she bids for a remarkable third victory in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.
The superstar mare was narrowly denied in her bid to become the first three-time winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last season – and has been kept in training as a six-year-old with the primary objective of putting that right in October.
However, she first has the chance to make history this weekend, having become only the third dual King George winner – after Dahlia (1973 and 1974) and Swain (1997 and 1998) – when getting the better of a pulsating duel with Crystal Ocean 12 months ago.
Enable has run just once since her defeat in Paris last autumn, finishing second to the front-running Ghaiyyath when defending her crown in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown three weeks ago, a performance Gosden insists he could not have been happier with.
“I was very open with everybody that being at the age she is now, she would improve for the run,” said the Clarehaven handler.
“Funnily enough I’m not very experienced at training six-year-old race mares. I think it’s a little different if they’re light-framed and wiry, but she found it difficult getting to race fitness this year, far more than ever before.
“She has found it challenging. But having the strong mind that she has, she brought herself forward enough to be ready to have a race at Sandown, and the race would bring her on – that’s exactly what happened.
“I was delighted with her run.”
Gosden reiterated his belief that to have challenged Ghaiyyath earlier in the Eclipse would have had a detrimental effect on the rest of Enable’s campaign.
“I did feel a front-runner like Ghaiyyath in magnificent form would be hard to beat in the Eclipse – I said to Frankie beforehand, ‘if we try to stay on his tail this race will knock us back, rather than bring us forward’,” said Gosden.
“She did very well to finish second, but for us the race was very much a platform. I’m very clear that I did not expect her to win the Eclipse, but I am looking forward to running her on Saturday in the sense that she’s up for it now.
“She behaved beautifully at Sandown when she was still not in the zone, but I feel she’s back in it now.”
Gosden went on record as saying Enable was “85 per cent” fit before the Eclipse. Asked if he could put a number on her current condition, he added: “If the trainer hasn’t got her fit by now, I suggest you fire him!”
He feels that while Enable is a different beast to the one who went through a scintillating three-year-old campaign unbeaten, she has lost none of her appetite for the game.
He added: “What changed with her was her metabolism. I’m sure there are a few people looking at their tummies, knowing they change with age! Consequently, she never gained that tightness like she normally would this year – it took her a lot longer.
“She is a six-year-old race mare – she’s not that wild, exuberant three-year-old filly who could just do anything. The number of races she performed in as a three-year-old was quite remarkable.
“She still has that exuberance she had as a three-year-old, but she is older and has grown a little wiser.
“I see all of the mental strength and wanting to do it still there with her. She’s more measured about it now, that’s probably the best way of putting it.”
All going well this weekend, Gosden confirmed Enable’s next port of call will be the Yorkshire Oaks at York, before her return to ParisLongchamp for the day that really matters in October.
Gosden said: “That is why she’s in training at six, poor girl, rather than being honourably retired as a five-year-old.
“The plan was always about this attempt to win a third Arc – it didn’t have to be three in a row. If it doesn’t go right on Saturday, there’s still the Arc coming in the autumn.”