Enable‘s bid for an unprecedented third victory in Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) on Saturday will be a largely tactical affair as only two others, both trained by Aidan O’Brien, will line up against the 6-year-old superstar mare.
Winner over the 1 1/2 miles in 2017 and 2019, Enable seeks to go one better than Hall of Fame filly Dahlia, who won in 1973 and 1974 but finished third behind Grundy and Bustino in her hat-trick attempt in the famed 1975 renewal. The race’s other dual winner, Swain (1997-98), did not contest a third.
At a tactical and fitness disadvantage against the speedy Ghaiyyath when second in the Eclipse (G1) at Sandown in her season opener July 5, Enable is otherwise versatile enough to adapt to prevailing conditions. Trainer John Gosden will give jockey Frankie Dettori plenty of leeway in deciding how to ride.
“Enable can make the running or you can put her in the middle or at the back – you can put her wherever you want her. We’ll leave that up to Frankie,” Gosden said.
“In a race of this nature, with a small field, it’s going to be tactical. You go in there with a blank canvas – you do not, under any circumstances, say ‘we’re going to do this.’ Let’s see how it pans out and see what the Ballydoyle horses do.
“It will be tactically fascinating. We always have a plan in a race, but quite often you go to Plan B, which is a blank canvas. In this one, it’s a blank canvas at Plan A.
“I don’t see anything too sinister ahead. The horses up against us are ridden by gentlemen who ride for me a lot, too.”
Sovereign, upset winner of last year’s Irish Derby (G1) from flag-to-finish, figures to serve as a pacemaker, though it’s worth recalling the colt forgot to stop at The Curragh when keeping six lengths social distance between he and his more fancied Epsom Derby (G1)-winning colleague Anthony Van Dyck.
The latter was a declared starter for the King George but on late Friday it was reported he would scratch, leaving England’s premier middle-distance race for older horses a three-horse field.
Ballydoyle’s “A” horse is Japan, a dual Group 1 winner last season who’s finished behind Enable in two prior encounters in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and Eclipse. Slow out of the box this term when fourth in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at short odds, he too was at a tactical disadvantage in the Eclipse but only a head behind Enable at the wire.
The King George offers a “Win & You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Keeneland in November as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series. As an unprecedented third Arc victory at Longchamp is the raison d’etre behind Enable’s deferred retirement, a return appearance to race in Kentucky would be a surprise should she qualify Saturday and make history in Paris in October.