Horses To Follow » Enlace


All the talk after the seven-furlong three-year-olds’ handicap at Goodwood on Saturday was about King To Be, about how unlucky he was in going down by a fast-diminishing nose to Enlace. And the runner-up was unlucky, no question. He probably would have won had he not had to check around Mullionheir 150 yards out. He is progressive and he will be of interest when he runs next, especially if it is back over seven furlongs at Goodwood – his only previous win was gained on his only previous run over this course and distance. However, there is a danger that King To Be will be over-bet next time, as unlucky-looking losers tend to be, and that the performance that Enlace put up in winning the race will be under-valued.

Mark Johnston’s filly does not have the sexy profile that King To Be does. The runner-up raced just twice last year as a juvenile, and was running for just the third time as a three-year-old on Saturday. By contrast, Enlace raced six times last year, and Saturday’s run was her fifth this year. Also, she was winning for just the second time in her life, the first time since her racecourse debut.

However, there are two main reasons for believing that she is worth following now. Firstly, she ran a massive race to win on Saturday. They went a furious pace from flagfall, so furious that King To Be could not go with it, he was scrubbed up through the first two furlongs and he was still last of the 11 runners when they reached the first turn. Enlace was up with the pace from the start. Smartly away from stall three, she got into a little bit of scrimmaging with Muffri’Ha on her inside and Mister Universe on her outside on the turn as the three of them vied for the early lead. It was Enlace who got around the turn in front, and she led from there until a stride after the winning line.

This was a race in which it was an advantage to be held up. Enlace’s fellow early leaders, Crack Shot, Muffri’Ha and the well-backed favourite Mister Universe, all faded out of it late on, while the hold-up horses, King To Be, Mullionheir and My Dream Boat, came to the fore. The exception to that was Enlace.

It is not easy to lead from a long way out at Goodwood and last to the line when they go fast from early, and Enlace was tough. She had fought off Mister Universe by the time they reached the two-furlong pole, she had seen off Mullionheir by the furlong pole, and she just had enough in reserve to see off King To Be’s late lunge. It was a typically gutsy performance from a Mark Johnston representative.

That is the other reason for believing that she might be worth following now, despite an 8lb hike – the fact that she is trained by Johnston. There is no telling by how much these Johnston horses can improve when they start on an upward trajectory. And there seems to be no reason for it, they often look fully exposed, well-raced, with no change to equipment, no procedures, and they start to improve.

The handicapper raised Enlace by 8lb to a mark of 88, but that is only 1lb higher than last year’s peak. She could progress again now, and she should do even better when she doesn’t have to fight for the early lead. Obviously the fact that she has handled Goodwood’s contours so well here augurs well if she returns for Glorious Goodwood, but she will be of interest wherever she goes next. Seven furlongs is probably her optimum, and it looks like she is at her best on fast ground.

23rd May 2015