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Enable’s rivals

This afternoon’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is all about Enable.  Her bid for racing history. The Arc is almost a hundred years old and no horse has won it three times. You would love to see her do it.  For racing.  For history.

It is correct that John Gosden’s mare is a warm favourite, but there is depth to the opposition.  There is Magical for starters.  Old rival.  Magical has never beaten Enable, but she has run her close.

Magical and Enable have met four times, and Enable has come out on top on all four occasions.  Four-nil to Enable.

But Aidan O’Brien’s filly pushed Enable close in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, and she got to within three parts of a length of her again in this year’s Eclipse.  And Magical goes into today’s race on a high, having landed the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last time.  You know that she will run her race again.

Aidan O’Brien runs two, and Japan is a shorter price in the market than his stable companion Magical.

Japan is an exciting young horse.  Winner of the Group 2 Beresford Stakes last year as a juvenile, the Galileo colt finished a close-up third in the Epsom Derby in June on the back of a rushed preparation, and he has won his three races since.  He won the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot by four and a half lengths before going to Longchamp on Bastille Day and winning the Grand Prix de Paris.  Then he went to York and won the Juddmonte International.

That was a significant victory.  Not only is the Juddmonte International one of the most prestigious middle-distance races of the summer, but Japan was taking on his elders for the first time.  He beat Crystal Ocean by a head, the same Crystal Ocean who had run Enable to a neck in the King George on his previous run.

Japan was competing that day over 10 furlongs, a distance that is probably short of his best.  He should be even better over today’s 12-furlong trip.  And Aidan O’Brien put him away after that in order to have him at concert pitch for the Arc.

As well as that, as a three-year-old, Japan will receive weight from his elders.  Enable receives the mares’ allowance, but she still has to concede 3lb to Japan.  And three-year-olds excel in the Arc.  The Classic generation have won 11 of the last 16 renewals of the race, and 18 of the last 25.

Japan will probably have to progress again if he is going to beat Enable, he will probably have to put up the best performance of his career.  But he is progressive and, the choice of Ryan Moore, there is every chance that a career-best performance is forthcoming.

Sottsass is also three, he is also progressive, and he is another who could put up the best performance of his life today.  Jean-Claude Rouget’s colt has run just six times, and he has won four times.

Winner of a listed race at Chantilly in May by six and a half lengths, the Siyouni colt stepped forward from that next time to win the Prix du Jockey Club back at Chantilly over 10 and a half furlongs.  Given a good break after that, he returned to the track in the Prix Niel at Longchamp three weeks ago, and he won nicely.

Sottsass was short of room along the inside on the run to the furlong pole in the Niel but, once he saw daylight, he showed an impressive turn of foot to settle the race in a matter of strides, and the winning time was the fastest of the three Arc trials run on the day.

He has had a typical French Arc preparation: break during the late summer, then back for an Arc trial and on to the Arc.  He is a talented and progressive colt who is proven on the track and on the ground, and he could be the one to provide top trainer Jean-Claude Rouget with his first Arc.

Ghaiyyath and Waldgeist are older, both horses have to concede the 3lb mares’ allowance to Enable, but both also go there with chances.  Ghaiyyath won the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden last time at Baden-Baden by an astonishing 14 lengths, while Waldgeist impressed in landing the Prix Foy last month, over today’s course and distance.

Winner of the Group 1 Prix Ganay on his debut this season, Waldgeist has won four times at Longchamp, and he only has two lengths to find with Enable on their running in the King George at Ascot in July.  Also, he is Andre Fabre’s sole representative in today’s race, which is noteworthy given that the trainer has won the Arc seven times, more times than any other trainer.

Today is all about Enable.  That is as it should be.  Prince Khalid Abdullah’s mare’s date with history.  The racing world will root for her, you will cheer her and Frankie Dettori home and into the winner’s enclosure and into mainstream.  But if she does achieve what you want her to achieve, if she does go and win her third Arc today and claim her place in racing history, she will have earned that place, and that is also as it should be.

© The Sunday Times, 6th October 2019