Juddmonte Expertise Enables European Double

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Enable | Coady Photography

By Chris McGrath

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky—Strictly in terms of turf racing, we all know that the grass tends to be a little greener in Europe. But if the raiders played to their strengths at the 35th Breeders’ Cup, duly extending a prolific record in both the Mile and the Turf, it sure helps if you have an operation like Juddmonte seeding the herd.

For if an unmistakable and effusive common denominator to Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) and Expert Eye (GB) (Acclamation {GB}) was one of the great international riders of the era, this was sooner about the man whose silks were worn by Frankie Dettori.

Prince Khaled Abdullah has had too many great champions already for Enable to be described as a crowning achievement. As a fourth generation homebred, however, she is certainly an apt symbol of the immense resources—both financial and cerebral—he has invested in building some of the modern breed’s most important families.

His legacy, in those terms, has been long assured. But longevity permits him to be assured, time and again, how valued is his contribution—and not only among the sundry expert eyes who represented him in the winner’s circle, but among all of us who have had our imagination captured, over the years, by the likes of Frankel (GB) (Galileo {Ire}), Dancing Brave (Lyphard) or (just as a reminder that his men know how to buy horses, as well as breed them) Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song).

“The likes” of Frankel! A term to be used advisedly. Enable, however, added her name to the Juddmonte legends with a performance that, much like the one that secured her second Arc in Paris last month, owed everything to the fact that her courage is commensurate with her class. When Magical (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) threw down the gauntlet at the top of the stretch, Enable tore off her gloves and hauled a flourishing rival nine lengths clear of their pursuers.

The assumption was that Enable might actually improve for her Paris exertions, which followed an interrupted preparation. But the fact is that a lesser trainer might well have struggled to prevent her recoiling from a hard race when short of peak condition. Luckily John Gosden nowadays bestrides his profession in Europe, and his masterly handling of a filly sidelined by injury through two-thirds of the season represented an instructive finishing touch to a vintage season.

The objective reality is that he has usurped Sir Michael Stoute as Newmarket’s premier trainer, but his neighbour has rallied competitively over the past couple of seasons and has shown undiminished sensitivity in his handling of Expert Eye.

There had been times when this colt appeared to be something really out of the ordinary, notably in explosive performances at Goodwood as a 2-year-old and at Royal Ascot this summer. But there had also been occasions when he threatened never quite to fulfil his deepest potential. When he banged his head on the gate in the G1 Dewhurst S., for instance, there was no doubt parallel concussion between various foreheads and desks at Juddmonte.

But while plenty of observers wrote off the colt off after his defeat at Newbury in the spring, it actually augured very well that he was able to run as well as he did after racing so freely early. Stoute has subsequently excelled in easing the pin back into the grenade—and in waiting, for its ultimate detonation, for a race that always promised to play to his strengths.

Credit, also, to the Juddmonte team for acknowledging, with a half-sister to a Classic winner, the transformation achieved over the years by the extraordinary Rathbarry stallion Acclamation (GB) (Royal Applause {GB}). Every horse, of course, owes half its genes to its dam and the sheer depth of genetic quality vested in the Juddmonte broodmares goes an awfully long way. But while the firm has exciting young sires of its own, on both sides of the ocean, they have also permitted outside stallions to amplify what they can do with the right partners—whether a veteran who has earned his stripes, like Acclamation, or a rookie like Nathaniel, who has confounded the idiocies of fashion by producing Enable from his very first crop.

Stoute’s dexterity was complemented by the superb timing of Dettori—who replicated his ambush of Lady Eli (Divine Park) on Queen’s Trust (GB) (Dansili {GB}) in the Filly & Mare Turf two years ago.

Up to that moment, it had begun to feel as though the raiders might have to start claiming credit for Chad Brown’s imported winners—whether bought at Tattersalls, or from a French stable. By thwarting Wild Illusion (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) with Sistercharlie (Ire) (Myboycharlie {Ire}), Brown even reduced Charlie Appleby’s Breeders’ Cup record to three-for-six. The man’s obviously losing his touch, but Wild Illusion could not have represented him more honourably.

And the same was true of Thunder Snow (Ire) (Helmet {Aus}) on behalf of Appleby’s Godolphin colleague Saeed bin Suroor when third in the Classic itself. Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy) did well to hold on for fifth, after again setting a manic early pace, but it was never happening for Roaring Lion (Kitten’s Joy), soon chased along on the inside and under a drive by halfway. He trailed in last, but the experiment will not have taken a cent off the value he had established, for his next career, in a series of lionhearted performances through a heavy campaign.

It would be wrong, moreover, to treat his unpleasant experience here as a consideration when Europeans contemplate this race in future. As pertinent as anything, perhaps, is an interval of just two weeks since a gruelling race at Ascot and, while Magical deserves immense credit for running as well as she did on the same turnaround, perhaps Roaring Lion’s owners—who so generously underwrite the Ascot card—will ponder using their influence to do something about that.

As it is, Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn both gave it their best shot after a contrastingly purposeful grounding in dirt racing. One way or another, however, it proved a frustrating meeting for the Ballydoyle cavalry.

At Coolmore they have always grasped the dividends available by opening up a new market with success here; but the same is true of Juddmonte, whose Teddy Grimthorpe stressed that when you bring a horse here, you have to do it like you mean it—and not as some kind of whimsical afterthought.

Grimthorpe also disclosed that the Breeders’ Cup is annually the first entry in the Prince’s diary. And that is something with which many of us can identify.

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