Neither an injury-blighted season nor her most dangerous opponent could prevent Enable from successfully defending her title in Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). Prince Khalid Abdullah’s homebred dug deep to stave off Sea of Class in Europe’s fall championship, a performance that distilled her own star quality, the impeccable judgment of jockey Frankie Dettori, and a training master class by John Gosden.
Enable’s springtime injury had left her projected four-year-old campaign in limbo, and the more time passed, an Arc repeat appeared to recede further out of reach. Finally ready to return in the September (G3) over Kempton’s Polytrack, she scored handily, and looked like the champion who’d swept last year’s Epsom and Irish Oaks (G1), King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), Yorkshire Oaks (G1), and Arc.
But winning the Arc in just her second start back was a Herculean task. And it was complicated by an additional problem that Gosden disclosed after the Arc – Enable had come down with a fever since her comeback. Far from being a case of onwards and upwards after Kempton, her Arc preparation was interrupted again in the final weeks before her bid for history at Paris Longchamp.
Thus Enable had a legitimate excuse, if not a right to lose her crown, in the circumstances. Yet in the manner of the all-time greats, she didn’t need to be pitch-perfect to impose her will, and thereby justified even-money favoritism.
Enable, well drawn in post 6, took up a good early position without being too forward. Settled a few lengths off Aidan O’Brien’s pacemaker, Nelson, she was drafting in the slipstream of another Ballydoyle charge, Capri. When Capri picked up the baton from his stablemate in the straight, Enable was still traveling strongly on the bridle. Dettori made his move, and Enable struck the front.
Then the bright yellow silks of William Haggas’s Sea of Class, the joint 5-1 second choice, emerged from the pack. Buried back in last after breaking from an unfavorable post 15, this year’s Irish and Yorkshire Oaks heroine threaded her way through the field just as Enable was kicking clear. Sea of Class unleashed a furious rally in the final furlong, doing her utmost to emulate her Arc-winning sire Sea of Stars (2009), only to come up short.
Enable, summoning every ounce in reserve, found enough to hold on by a short neck. The daughter of Nathaniel covered about 1 1/2 miles in 2:29.10 on a good course, extending Dettori’s grip on the Arc record book as a six-time winning rider.
Andre Fabre’s Cloth of Stars, runner-up last year, placed third to the outstanding fillies on Sunday. Stablemate Waldgeist, 5-1 along with Sea of Class, got up for fourth. Capri held fifth, followed by Salouen; O’Brien’s best-fancied hope, Kew Gardens; Nelson; Study of Man; Magical; Way to Paris; Tiberian; Talismanic; Patascoy; Defoe; Hunting Horn; Clincher; Neufbosc; and Louis d’Or.
Enable now reigns as the eighth dual Arc winner. Having captured the Arc in exile, so to speak, at Chantilly a year ago, Enable has the distinction of being the only dual winner at two venues. *Ksar (1921-22), Motrico (1930, 1932), Corrida (1936-37), Tantieme (1950-51), *Ribot (1955-56), Alleged (1977-78), and Treve (2013-14) had all scored at Longchamp.
The Breeders’ Cup is beckoning as a new world for Enable to conquer. Fans await Prince Khalid’s decision on her participation next month at Churchill Downs, and over the longer term, whether she’ll try to outstrip Treve by going for an Arc three-peat in 2019.