Things We Learned » Enable joins elite

Enable joins elite

Enable was great again at Longchamp on Sunday.  Not as great as she was at Chantilly on Sunday 12 months ago, but great all the same.  Great enough to bag a second Arc.

She had the draw and she had the jockey and she had the run of the race.  You couldn’t have designed a better draw for her, stall six, with Waldgeist and Kew Gardens and Sea Of Class in the teens.  But you create your own run of the race.  She had the pace to adopt and hold her prominent position, she had the rider to keep everything simple and efficient, and she had the class and the stamina and the determination to see her home.  Just.

Khalid Abdullah’s filly may not have been at her best, but it was still some performance by her and by trainer John Gosden, to get her to a level at which she was able to win the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe again.  Just one run since she had won last year’s Arc, and that was on Polytrack just four weeks before her primary objective of 2018.  With a slight setback in the interim thrown in just to push it to the limit.

She faced a stiffer task on Sunday than the task that she faced 12 months ago.  A four-year-old conceding weight instead of a three-year-old receiving weight.  A staccato preparation instead of a momentum-fuelled quadruple Group 1 run.

And in Frankie Dettori, she had the perfect accomplice.  John Gosden said that you might not get the whole of Dettori on a runofthemill weekday afternoon.  But you know that, on the big days, you get him all.  His mind as well as his body.  And they don’t get much bigger than Paris on the first Sunday in October.  That’s Dettori’s 30th Arc and his sixth win in it.  That’s a strike rate of 20% and a win-span of 23 years.  It’s some record.

What next

There is context for Enable’s achievement, of course.  The eighth horse to win the Arc twice.

Significantly, three of those dual winners achieved the feat in the first 17 years of the race.  And, overall, there were six dual winners between 1920 and 1978. 

The more impressive fact is that, since Alleged won the second of his brace in 1978, only Treve has won the Arc twice.  Enable is just the second dual winner in the last 40 years.

So what next?  This is horse racing.  No matter how significant a feat has just been achieved, there’s always a what next. 

Whether she runs again this season or not, you have to hope that Enable stays in training next year as a five-year-old.  Her ultimate goal is surely a third Arc.  You can be sure that John Gosden and Frankie Dettori will be voting in the affirmative, and you have to think that Khalid Abdullah, her owner and her breeder, would love to give her a chance of achieving that feat.  It’s unprecedented.  

Alleged didn’t try and Treve came up short.  Three Arcs has never been done before.  History beckons again.

Fine margins

You have to feel for Sea Of Class, and for William Haggas and James Doyle.  All the planning and all the preparation and, from stall 15, she comes up a short neck short. 

Sea Of Class is a hold-up filly, she had won her previous four races with hold-up rides, and she was drawn in stall 15.  James Doyle had no option but to hold her up.  Especially when you were almost guaranteed that there was going to be a fast pace on.

It’s hard to win an Arc when you are second last turning for home.  But it’s hard to win an Arc.  Full stop.  And it’s harder to win it from stall 15.

With the benefit of hindsight, you can usually find the short neck by which you are beaten.  If Doyle had known that Tiberian was going to move a little to his left 250 metres out, for example, he would have waited two strides and moved into the gap that consequently developed to his right, instead of passing him on the left.  That would have saved him a short neck at least.  Maybe even a long neck. 

These are fine margins.

Would Sea Of Class have won if Doyle had used up some energy early on in order to get into mid-division?  Who knows.  Perhaps she would have.  Perhaps she wouldn’t have.  Would it have increased her chance of winning?  Again, we don’t know.  We do know that she lost after racing in rear, so it would be worth trying.  There’s that hindsight again. 

It’s not so easy when you have nothing but foresight with which to work.  And if Sea Of Class had got up and won by a short neck instead of getting beaten by a short neck, Doyle’s ride would have been acclaimed as the ride of the season. 

Hurdles or fences

Just because a particular decision is a nice decision to have land in your lap, it doesn’t mean that it is an easy one.  Take your seven-year-old daughter into Auntie Nellie’s Sweet Shop and tell her than she can have one thing.  See how long that one takes.

Hurdles or fences this season for Samcro?  There are strong arguments for both paths.  Samcro was obviously box office last season as a novice hurdler.  He won the Deloitte Hurdle and the Ballymore Hurdle, and he probably would have won the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown had he not come down at that third last flight.  If he had stood up and won that, the decision on this season’s path might have been easier.

That said, he is an embryo steeplechaser, a point-to-point winner.  It was the Gold Cup that Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott surely had in mind when they bought him at Aintree in 2016, not the Champion Hurdle. 

He is six years old now, rising seven.  Say he stays over hurdles for another season, goes for the Champion Hurdle, he will be seven rising eight when he embarks on his chasing career.  Of course, he could be trained for the Gold Cup as a novice chaser, but that would be unusual.  Under the normal course of events, he would be eight starting off as a second-season chaser, so he would probably be nine by the time he got to contest the Gold Cup. 

Don Cossack was nine when Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown famously won the Gold Cup with him in 2016, but nine is still old enough for a Gold Cup winner.  Don Cossack was just the second nine-year-old Gold Cup winner since Kauto Star won the second of his two, and he was just the third since Best Mate won the third of his three.  And still no horse aged older than nine has won the Gold Cup since Cool Dawn won it as a 10-year-old in 1998.

If Samcro embarked on his chasing career this season, he would be a novice through the 2018/19 season and a second-season chaser through 2019/20.  Then, all going well, he would be just eight please God when he lined up in the Gold Cup in 2020, a second-season chaser.

On the other hand, the peerless Dawn Run is still the only horse in the history of National Hunt racing has won the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup. 

Apple drops or cola cubes?

Yellow is the new orange

We should have known that there was always a reason why Big Orange raced in yellow.

© The Irish Field, 13th October 2018