Things We Learned » Enable was brilliant

Enable was brilliant

Enable was brilliant.  There was always a chance that she would do what she did, and those of us who fielded against her at even money (sheepish look) knew from very early in the race that she was far more likely to win than to lose.

She had the early pace to adopt a position, she had the class to travel easily just behind the pace, and then she had that turn of foot, the one that we had seen at The Curragh and at Epsom and at Ascot.  She has it all, and she produced everything on the biggest day, on the greatest stage, in a fast time.

Nobody has said yet that she has nothing left to prove, and that’s a good thing, because she does.  She has to prove that she can go and do it again, giving weight to the youngsters as opposed to receiving weight from her elders.  And perhaps again.  No horse has ever won the Arc three times.

Maybe that’s greedy, and let’s get her confirmed as staying in training for 2018 before we start thinking about 2019.  For sure.  But you would be surprised if she did not stay in training as a four-year-old.  Trainer John Gosden said that he would love to have her back next year, back to try to win the first Arc run at the all-new revamped Longchamp, and Frankie Dettori squealed with delight at the prospect.

More importantly, owner Khalid Abdullah – for it is he who pays the piper – is a breeding man, but he is also a racing man.  Who knows what the deciding factor was in keeping Frankel in training as a four-year-old, but he did, and he gained just rewards.  Frankel won the Lockinge Stakes, the Queen Anne Stakes, the Sussex Stakes, the Juddmonte International and the Champion Stakes as a four-year-old, and went to stud unbeaten in 14 as opposed to unbeaten in nine.

The opportunity cost of postponing the stud career of Frankel, a colt, is obviously far higher than the opportunity cost of postponing the stud career of Enable, a filly, who can produce a maximum of one foal per year, talented and all though she is.

Racing’s gain would be significant, and the owner is sure to recognise that.  Enable has wheedled her way into the public’s consciousness.  It has been a gradual process, but she is there now.  She is mainstream.  Reports of her progress during the winter would be newsworthy, speculation on the stepping stones of a 2018 campaign would be of interest.  Speculation on which stallion she would visit just wouldn’t have the same appeal to the sports editors.

She is of interest now to the sports fan, not just to the racing fan.  Multiply that interest by Frankie Dettori, and now you’re box office. 

Top performances by trainer and rider

It was a fine training performance by John Gosden.  Of course, it helps if you have the raw material with which to start, but Gosden has honed Enable’s talent all season, from defeat at the hands of her stable companion Shutter Speed at Newbury at the end of April, through her four Oaks wins and her King George win all the way to Chantilly.

The Nathaniel filly was racing for the seventh time this year on Sunday, once every month from April to August inclusive, twice in July.  That’s a lot for an adolescent filly, five races at the highest level, two against older horses, three on easy ground.  It was interesting that Gosden said that it was the filly who told him that she was well enough to run in the Yorkshire Oaks, between the King George and the Arc.  That’s all very fine, but the key is to listen to the filly and to be able to interpret what she is telling you.  That’s the art part of training.

The Arc wasn’t on her radar initially.  She wasn’t even in the race until the Wednesday beforehand.  Even so, her trainer was able to have her at concert pitch.  She raced as if it had been her primary target all season.

Dettori proved again that he is one of the best big-race riders in the world.  It was interesting that he spoke afterwards about the different plans he had in his head, but you suspect that the one that he ultimately implemented was A or B: break fast from stall two, use up a little energy around the outside at the first left-handed turn in order to adopt a prominent position, just behind the leader or leaders, a little towards the outside.  The key was not to get trapped behind horses, determine your own pace, have your throttle and your rudder in your own hands, not in the hands of your rivals.

It was interesting that, when Order Of St George moved up on his outside after a couple of furlongs, Dettori took a pull in order that he could slot in behind the Ballydoyle horse, but he made sure that there was nothing on his outside.  He managed to race just one off the inside rail around the home turn while at the same time ensuring that there was nothing on his outside, that he could make his move when he wanted to, not when he was allowed to.

It all looked very simple, it all looked straightforward in the end, but that’s what the top riders to, that’s what the top sportspeople do.  They make it look like your six-year-old daughter could do it.  Enable may have won the Arc on Sunday regardless of what tactics had been employed, she had so much in hand, but her rider maximised her chances of winning it, and that’s another thing that the top riders do. 

War back on track

With all the attention on the multiple Group 1 action at Chantilly and Newmarket, the performance that War Decree put up in winning the Group 3 Koffy Diamond Stakes at Dundalk on Friday evening may have gone a little under the radar.

The War Front colt oozed class.  He travelled supremely well through his race, he eased his way to the front at the furlong pole, and he picked up nicely when Donnacha O’Brien gave him a squeeze, coming clear of good horses in Absolute Blast and Abingdon.

This was much more like it from Aidan O’Brien’s colt.  We didn’t see him last year after he had won the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at the Goodwood Festival in July, and he was beaten when sent off as favourite for the Craven Stakes on his debut this season. 

He was racing on Friday for the first time since he finished fifth in the Prix du Jockey Club in June, but he was worth the wait.  His rider said after Friday’s race that fast ground was important to him, and that should obviously be a positive if he goes to Del Mar now for the Breeders’ Cup.  By War Front out of a Street Cry mare, and obviously proven now on Polytrack, he would be of interest in a turf race, but it could also be worth trying him on dirt.

Racing rules harmonised

So it looks like the rules of racing are going to be harmonised across national boundaries in Europe.  It looks like a horse will not be disqualified in France any more if it looks sideways at a steward. 

The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities have come up with a model rule for said homogenisation, under its harmonisation of raceday rules committee, to which it looks like the French and the Germans are set to sign up. 

In a nutshell, under the new Article 32, if a horse causes interference but does not improve its position relative to the horse who has suffered the interference, then it will not be thrown out.  If it does improve its relative position, then throw him out away, bath water and all.

It’s all very fine, horses should race under the same rules everywhere in the world.  It’s common sense.  However, we are still left with the difficulty in determining whether or not a horse has improved its position.  That remains unclarified.

It is rare that you can say with certainty (100%) that a horse improved its position or did not improve its position relative to the horse with whom it has interfered.  Would the horse have won anyway without the interference?  You can only estimate with degrees of certainty, with degrees of probability.  

There is still no directive regarding to which horse the benefit of the doubt should go: the victor or the victim. 

What if the stewards are 90% certain that the ‘winner’ would have won anyway?  What if they are 60% certain that he wouldn’t?  What if they just don’t know, if it is impossible to call, if it is genuinely 50-50?

As things stand, in Ireland and Britain, to varying degrees, the benefit of the doubt usually goes to the victor when common sense dictates that the benefit of the doubt should go to the victim.  It makes sense both from the point of view of natural justice and from the point of view of safety.  It would dilute the win-at-all-costs mentality that pervades at present.  Get to the winning line first and take your chances in the stewards’ room, where the ‘winner’ is usually an odds-on shot. 

The burden of proof should really be on the horse who has caused the interference.  Hopefully the harmonisation of raceday rules committee can address that one next.

Headlines of the week

Coolmore buys Dubawi colt for two million, Godolphin buys Galileo filly for four million.  So much for 10-year-trends.

© The Irish Field, 7th October 2017