Monday delivered the news which most racing fans were expecting with the announcement that superstar mare Enable was entering retirement following her failed history-making attempt at a third Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe crown.
From her impressive debut win at Newcastle on what was her sole run as a juvenile, it is easy to forget that she was beaten on her first run as a three-year old where she met with defeat at Newbury behind Shutter Speed and Raheen House.
On that occasion Enable’s long-time partner, Frankie Dettori, had abandoned the Nathaniel mare in favour of the winner who looked a very smart prospect and went on to win a Group Three prior to losing her unbeaten record at Chantilly when tackling the Prix de Diane.
We won’t know how good that one might have been as she was moved to the United States following defeat in the Juddmonte International but we do know how good Enable became in the wake of that defeat and we take a look back at her superstar career following her retirement.
Enable as a three-year-old
Having been beaten in a conditions event on her seasonal debut, Enable would go on to chalk up an impressive six wins in succession, taking the Cheshire Oaks on her second outing before following up with an impressive five lengths’ defeat of odds-on favourite Rhododendron in the Epsom Oaks.
Defeat had been out of the question for Aidan O’Brien’s charge but John Gosden’s emerging superstar readily put the Irish favourite in her place with a top-class performance and she followed up that win to make it a hat-trick with a similar margin of victory over Rain Goddess at the Curragh in the Irish Oaks.
A first King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes followed, beating Coral Eclipse hero Ulyssees easily and then scoring a win in the Yorkshire Oaks, which stamped her ticket to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at rearranged Chantilly and the Gosden mare duly delivered with a ready defeat of Cloth Of Stars to put the seal on a terrific season.
Enable’s four-year-old season
Following her exploits in the previous campaign, many wondered how John Gosden’s star could follow up and whether she could train and be as good as a four-year old.
It took some time to get Enable onto the track and she made her belated return in what was a very light campaign to rout Crystal Ocean in the Group Three September Stakes at Kempton, prior to making a return to Longchamp where she would successfully defend her Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe crown with a narrow defeat of Sea Of Class.
The debate whether William Haggas’ runner-up would have beaten Enable had he had more luck in running still rages today. However, Frankie Dettori on Enable was able to race up the rail, while James Doyle on the runner-up had to race widest of all and was denied a clear run before running on strongly late to only fail by a head and it is highly likely he’d have run down Enable in another few strides.
But the verdict went the way of Enable who stamped her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup, where she would kick-start a rivalry with Aidan O’Brien’s Magical by beating that one in the Breeders’ Cup Turf with a one length victory to round off another unbeaten campaign.
Enable’s third Arc attempt
The Nathaniel mare had seen her celebrity status blossom and the popular star made her return to action a winning one to get her five-year old campaign off to the perfect start with a defeat of Magical in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes before delivering what is arguably her best performance of her career when outbattling Crystal Ocean to land a second King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes crown.
Waldgeist was back in third on that occasion and Enable then took a second Yorkshire Oaks crown with a defeat of her foe Magical prior to taking a third crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe; a third win in the race would see her make history and there was confidence in her ability to deliver with Enable being sent off 1/2 favourite.
It wasn’t to be however despite getting to the front two furlongs from home as the very soft ground saw her unable to shake off her challengers and Waldgeist swooped late to take up the running in the looming shadows of the post to thwart history and wrest the crown away from John Gosden’s star.
Although a disappointing end to her season having been inflicted with a first defeat in thirteen runs since Newbury more than two years previously she lost no caste in the defeat although speculation around her future began to do the rounds. Would we see Enable back for another attempt?
The speculation proved unfounded and Enable would return for another campaign the following season with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and another crack at history the ultimate goal.
Enable in here final season and retirement
As with the previous season, Enable travelled a familiar path with her first outing coming at Sandown in the Coral Eclipse where she met with a second successive defeat when beaten into second behind Ghaiyyath although it was apparent that the Nathaniel mare needed that run taking on race-fit rivals.
She proved sharper for the return when easily winning a three-runner King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes crown to become the first horse to win three renewals of that race and she limbered up for another crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by slamming her field by seven lengths in the September Stakes – the same race she had won two years previously before taking her second Arc crown.
But her last Arc attempted descended into relative chaos with incessant rain in the lead up to the contest turning the ground heavy, leading to the loss of Love from the race and the anticipated showdown between the queen of the turf and her young pretender would not now happen.
Meanwhile the contaminated feed debacle saw the contest robbed of any real pace angle with Aidan O’Brien and son Joseph both taking out their intended runners having tested positive for a prohibited substance that had been discovered in the meal.
As a result the Arc developed into a sprint in the prevailing testing conditions with the race being run at only a moderate gallop which didn’t suit Enable and she couldn’t race a change of gear when the pace of the race lifted as the field turned into the home straight and having been squeezed for room she lost her position and any hope of challenging for the win.
Having crossed the line in sixth place it was the first time in her career that she had failed to make the frame but it was a run which she couldn’t be harshly judged upon all things considered and in the wake of her Arc run there had been talk of a final swansong back at Ascot for British Champions Day.
This writer even speculated that connections might have felt hard done by in their latest Arc run that they might be tempted by one last crack the following season despite no seven year old having won the race since Motrico in 1932 and to date the only horse aged older than five years old to take the prize which reinforces the notion that the Arc is very much a race for younger horses.
Is Enable a great?
The word legend can be used all too often and, while it might be a stretch to consider Enable as a racing legend following her retirement, she can certainly be considered as one of the modern greats of the sport whose consistency thoughout her career and her record stand up to the greatest scrutiny.
Five seasons of racing at the top level yielded fifteen wins under Rules, unbeaten on the all-weather and amassing more than ten million in career earnings with eleven Group One victories including three King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes crowns, two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victories and an Oaks triple-crown.
An official rating of 128 might fall some way below that of the likes of Frankel or Sea The Stars, but it has to be remembered neither of those horses raced beyond a four-year old; yet John Gosden’s star took on and beat several years’ Classic generations and ran consistently throughout her career.
Always tough as teak and guaranteed to give her all she was never a flashy performer but all heart and determination which is hallmarked by her durability to still be contesting at the very top level when so many top class horses have long since been turned out to pasture.
Following the retirement of Enable, it is fair to say she owes nothing to anyone and the memories of her performances will live long in memory; while she might not be talked about with the same reverence as Nijinsky or Arkle, she nevertheless is certainly one of the modern greats who will be irreplaceable and it will likely be a long time before we see another of her ilk prove as dominant in the sport as she.
Enjoy your retirement Enable, no-one can begrudge you your rest which has been well earned and we look forward to your progeny!
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