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Irish Oaks report

If there was a greater certainty at The Curragh yesterday than Enable winning the Darley Irish Oaks, it was that the filly’s rider Frankie Dettori would perform a flying dismount in the winner’s enclosure as long as she did win it.

Enable obliged and Frankie flew.  We got the double up.

In truth, there was never really a moment’s anxiety for the odds-on favourite.  Not from the point at which Dettori got the John Gosden-trained filly settled into a nice racing rhythm after they had gone a furlong behind pace-setter Bengala.  The daughter of Nathaniel was smooth as silk for the next nine furlongs, swinging along at racing pace, one horse-length between her and the leader, a half a horse-length between her and the chasing pack, everything under control.

As they started the turn for home, Dettori moved Enable up on the outside of the leader as Bean Feasa got closer on the outside, but that was as close as Jim Bolger’s filly got.  Dettori gave his filly a squeeze when they straightened for home, and she took off.  In a hoofbeat she had put daylight between herself and her pursuers.

Rain Goddess emerged from the pack to give chase, and she did mount a challenge of sorts, but Dettori gave his filly one smack passing the two-furlong pole and, all of a sudden, the race was over as a contest.  Prince Khalid Abdullah’s filly careered away from her field, putting five and a half lengths between herself and the gallant Rain Goddess by the time she reached the winning line, with her rider afforded the luxury of being able to ease down close home.

“She was great,” said a jubilant Dettori, who was winning the fillies’ Classic for the fourth time.  “She travelled really well and, when I gave her a backhander, she flew.  She’s got a great cruising speed, she can quicken and she stays.  I was able to give my shoulder a rest in the last 100 yards!”

The shoulder to which he was referring is the one that he broke in a fall in the parade ring at Yarmouth last month, which kept him out of Royal Ascot and away from the Irish Derby.  It could have ruled him out of yesterday’s contest too, but the rider was determined to get back for Enable’s Irish Oaks bid. That was another race that he won, returning to race-riding only three days ago at Newmarket.  Yesterday’s ride was just his third ride back after his injury, and his first winner.

“Luckily I broke my shoulder in a place where it was going to be able to heal quickly.  I had to get back for today, so thanks to all the people who helped me.”

It is difficult to know how good Enable is, how good she could be.  Yesterday’s race was just the fifth of her career, and it was her fourth win.  After staying on well to land the Cheshire Oaks at Chester in May, she was impressive in winning the Epsom Oaks in early June where, once again, her stamina came to the fore.  She showed a turn of foot yesterday though, she showed her pace as well as her stamina, and that combination is an irresistible force.

“We walked the track beforehand,” said John Gosden, who was landing his second Irish Oaks, having won it for the first time in 2012 with Great Heavens, “and Frankie said, if I’m going well, I’ll just get on with it.  It’s great to have Frankie back.”

“This filly is exceptionally good,” the trainer said of Enable.  “She’s probably the best we’ve got.  Whether or not she is the best three-year-old, I’m not sure, we haven’t taken on the colts yet.  We didn’t run in the Irish Derby, where we might have found out.  But she might take on the colts at some stage.  She’s still in the King George in two weeks’ time, so we’ll see.”

Bookmakers Paddy Power cut Enable’s odds for the King George to 6/1, which makes her joint second favourite behind last year’s winner Highland Reel, while she is quoted at no higher than 7/1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Earlier in the day, the Group 2 Friarstown Stud Sapphire Stakes was won by the Tony Coyle-trained Caspian Prince, who got home by a short head under Declan McDonogh from the odds-on favourite Marsha in a thriller.

The Group 3 Jebel Ali Silver Jubilee Anglesey Stakes was won by the Actress, Aidan O’Brien’s filly – the only filly in the race – driven to a one-and-three-quarter-length success by Seamie Heffernan.


© The Sunday Times, 16th July 2017