November 30, 2023

Enable makes history by routing older males in King George

Enable is favored for the Arc after a unique sweep of the Epsom and Irish Oaks and King George (Photo courtesy Ascot via Twitter)

Khalid Abdullah’s homebred Enable, already ranked as an above-average dual Oaks winner, boosted her profile to historic proportions with a stunning victory in Saturday’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot.

The first filly ever to add the midsummer showpiece to titles in both the Epsom Oaks (G1) and the Irish equivalent at the Curragh, Enable rounded off another unique treble. She became an unprecedented third-generation King George winner, emulating sire Nathaniel (2011) and grandsire Galileo (2001).

Of more immediate interest, Enable’s 4 1/2-length romp over Ulysses propelled her into clear favoritism for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), and earned her a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) under the “Win & You’re In” provisions.

The John Gosden trainee was dispatched as the 5-4 favorite in her first tilt versus older males, and she made those odds look too generous. Enable also rewarded jockey Frankie Dettori for enduring a strict dieting regimen to make her 119-pound weight assignment, a 14-pound concession from her elders. Dettori revealed that in six days, he’d lost seven pounds.

Despite racing a bit keenly stalking her pacemaker Maverick Wave, Enable still packed a wallop in the stretch. She moved in tandem with stablemate Jack Hobbs as they overtook the weakening leader turning for home, then drew right off from him. Jack Hobbs gave way abruptly in a way implying something was amiss.

Defending champion Highland Reel was all heart churning on wider out, but the rain had turned the ground all against him, and he could not get enough traction. His full brother Idaho, more ground-adaptable, kept on to better effect without threatening the winner.

The only rival to try to make a race of it was Ulysses, who wasn’t best suited by the going either. Traveling well behind Enable in upper stretch, the last-out Eclipse (G1) winner was waiting to play his hand, for he can’t sustain a run if moving too soon. But Enable left him standing in a couple of strides. Although Ulysses responded in earnest pursuit, the star filly was long gone.

Ulysses held second by three-quarters of a length from a rallying Idaho. There was a four-length gap back to Highland Reel, followed by Benbatl (the only three-year-old colt in the line-up), Desert Encounter, My Dream Boat, Maverick Wave, and the tailed-off Jack Hobbs and Argentine invader Sixties Song, a fast-ground aficonado who came a long way only to find unsuitable conditions.

Enable negotiated 1 1/2 miles in 2:36.22 on a course officially labeled “good to soft.” But the going was downgraded to soft for the very next race. Between the significant rain that poured down prior to the King George, the way the course looked as they galloped over it, and the spattered horses and riders, it was probably riding softer than the official description.

Enable advanced her record to five-for-six, her only loss coming in her seasonal reappearance in a Newbury conditions race, where she was third to stablemate Shutter Speed. She’s improved in each subsequent outing, from her smart Cheshire Oaks to her heroics at Epsom and the Curragh, and now her historic King George.

Three other sophomore fillies have won the King George – Dahlia (1973), who’d also taken the Irish Oaks (and later repeated as a four-year-old in the 1974 King George); Pawneese (1976), successful in both the Epsom and French Oaks (G1); and past Gosden pupil Taghrooda (2014), who scored at Epsom as well.

Another Oaks heroine, Time Charter, added the King George at four in 1983. The first two distaffers to garner the King George, *Aunt Edith II (1966) and Park Top (1969), were older horses who did not win classics at three. The most recent older filly to take top honors, Danedream (2012), had edged defending champion Nathaniel in an epic finish. Danedream was a classic winner by way of the Oaks d’Italia (G2) but more significantly ran off the screen in the 2011 Arc.

Enable’s sire Nathaniel has joined some august company as a King George winner to sire one, a distinction he’s achieved in his very first crop. That club comprises *Ribot (1956), sire of Ragusa (1963); *Ballymoss (1958), sire of Royal Palace (1968); Busted (1967), sire of Mtoto (1988); Nijinsky II (1970), sire of Ile de Bourbon (1978) and Lammtarra (1995); Mill Reef (1971), sire of Reference Point (1987); Nashwan (1989), sire of Swain (1997-98); Montjeu (2000), sire of Hurricane Run (2006); and his own aforementioned sire Galileo, responsible for Nathaniel and Highland Reel (2016).

Galileo’s line owned Saturday’s King George superfecta. Aside from being the paternal grandsire of Enable and sire of fourth Highland Reel, Galileo sired the runner-up Ulysses and third Idaho.

Enable is now aiming for the August 24 Yorkshire Oaks (G1) during the Ebor Festival, with the Arc decision to follow thereafter. It’s too early to tell if the Breeders’ Cup could be in the mix for a filly who’s had a busy season so far, but Del Mar has been on the itinerary for the blossoming Ulysses, and Highland Reel’s a logical candidate to mount a Turf title defense on the firm ground he craves.