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Breeders’ Cup

Frankie Dettori shone at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs yesterday as, 24 years after he had notched up his first Breeders’ Cup win on Barathea in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Mile, the rider recorded a rare Breeders Cup double: Expert Eye in the Mile and Enable in the Turf. 

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable had been a short-priced favourite for the Turf for weeks, but these things are rarely straightforward.  Eight Arc de Triomphe winners had trodden the Breeders’ Cup path before her, and all eight had been beaten.  Enable had history in her face, but the John Gosden-trained filly had lots on her side.  Her talent, her class and her courage, as well as her trainer and her rider. 

Also, she was racing for just the second time this season when she won the Arc.  She was a relatively fresh horse going into yesterday’s race.

She had to dig deep though.  The Aidan O’Brien-trained filly Magical pushed her all the way. 

Frankie Dettori had his filly in a nice racing rhythm from flagfall.  She travelled well down the back straight, towards the outside, and she moved forward as they turned for home.

Wide around the final turn, Ryan Moore and Magical shot through on her inside and into a half-length lead as they straightened up for home.  The two fillies went toe to toe, eyeball to eyeball, down the home straight.  It was in the balance until deep inside the final furlong but, ultimately, Enable just proved to be the stronger.  She got home by three parts of a length from Magical, with the pair of them pulling nine lengths clear of their rivals.

“It was a big ask for the filly,” said winning trainer John Gosden, who won the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 1984 with Royal Heroine, when he was based in California.  “Everyone knows she has had a difficult year.  It was a tough race.  It was a wonderful stretch run between two great fillies and two great jockeys.  And full marks to the filly, she has been very brave, and mentally very strong to get herself here. It’s wonderful for her owner/breeder Prince Khalid, who has been a massive supporter of the Breeders’ Cup, since 1984, when I first sat with him in Hollywood Park.  He was very keen to come here and he has been rewarded.”

“I have no words to say,” said Dettori, who was recording the 14th Breeders’ Cup win of his glittering career.  “How brilliant she is.  Her wheels were spinning around the bend, I took a wide trip to get on the better ground, and she found another gear.  She’s very special.  She has conquered America!”

Eighty minutes earlier, Dettori had brought up Breeders’ Cup win number 13 when he drove Expert Eye home in the Mile. 

Owned, like Enable, by Khalid Abdullah, there was never any doubt about Expert Eye’s talent.  Winner of the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot during the summer, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt wasn’t that fast away in the Mile.  He was fourth last of the 14 runners as they raced around the first bend, and he was five horses wide as they raced around the home turn. 

With fully three lengths to make up on leaders Analyze It and Catapult as they raced inside the final furlong, Dettori conjured a run out of his horse, and the Acclamation colt dug deep.  He clawed the leaders back with 100 yards to run, and forged ahead to win by a half a length.

“Frankie was great on him,” said the winning trainer.  “He scared me, I thought he was a little too far back early on.  I didn’t make a plan with him.  He has been around here often enough.  But he knew what he had under him.  This horse has got lots of talent, he just had some problems with the stalls which affected him mentally in the spring time. The team at home, the team behind him, they have done a wonderful job with him.”

It was just the second time that a British-trained horse had landed the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and the first since the Luca Cumani-trained Barathea won it under Dettori in 1994.

“He didn’t break very well,” said Dettori.  “But I managed to get on a good patch of ground.  It’s very rough on the inside.  He found a nice rhythm.  When they kicked off the bend, I thought we had a mountain to climb, but then the turbo kicked in.  He won cosily in the end.”

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Mendelssohn ran a gallant race under Ryan Moore to finish fifth in the Classic behind Accelerate, who kept on strongly for Joel Rosario, and who brought up the first Breeders’ Cup win of trainer John Sadler’s career. 

Mendelssohn broke smartly for Ryan Moore, and he led from the start until the top of the home stretch.  He could not repel Accelerate’s challenge, but he kept on admirably after he had been headed to retain fifth place.  The Saeed bin Suroor-trained Thunder Snow ran a big race to finish third.


© The Sunday Times, 4th November 2018