Plenty of Highlights, But Enable Steals the Show

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Enable | Coady Photography

By Bill Finley

The Breeders’ Cup rarely disappoints and the 2018 edition was no exception. From the start on Friday through John Sadler’s cathartic win with Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, there seemed to be unforgettable moment after unforgettable moment.

But 25 years from now, when they are running the Breeders’ Cup for the 60th time, this year will be remembered as the year of Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}). How can it not be?

We had never seen a horse pull off the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-GI Breeders’ Cup Turf double, which wasn’t exactly a surprise. To do so, you have to run the race of your life against the very best in Europe, come back four weeks later, ship across the ocean and, again, put in a sensational effort against the best turf horses from two continents. Eight horses had tried prior to Saturday’s Turf and all eight had returned home without a Breeders’ Cup trophy. We came to learn over the years that only an exceptional horse could do this, and Enable is an exceptional horse.

She won the Arc last year, as well, but had had a long campaign and trainer John Gosden and her owner, Juddmonte Farms, decided not to send her to the Breeders’ Cup. The story was different this year. In May, it was announced that Enable had suffered a setback in training and would not return until the late summer. Her first start of 2018 came in a modest spot, the G3 September S. on the all-weather surface at Kempton. But that race set her up for a return trip to the Arc, and she won again, bravely holding off a late rally from Sea Of Class (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}).

The Arc was just her second start of the year, which meant that Gosden, unlike last year, had a fresh horse for the Breeders’ Cup.

Everyone knew that Enable was talented. Yesterday, we learned she is a fighter. Jockey Frankie Dettori said she was “spinning her wheels” until he got her out into the middle of the turf course where he believed the footing was better. Seven or eighth paths off the rail, she hooked Magical (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) at the top of the stretch and both fillies battled hard to the wire. Enable just battled a little harder.

“It was a big ask of the filly as everyone knows she has had a difficult year,” Gosden said. “She didn’t quite come here in the form she would have come with last year. It was a tough race, but she did it. It was a wonderful stretch run between two great fillies and two great jockeys [Dettori and Ryan Moore] and we came out on top. Full marks to the filly. She’s been very brave and mentally very strong to get herself here. She did it today with sheer guts and determination.”

Magical, a 3-year-old filly, also ran a winning race as she finished nine lengths in front of the third-place finisher Sadler’s Joy (Kitten’s Joy).

Not that anyone needed convincing, but Gosden also proved what a gifted horsemen he is, having guided Enable through a difficult season, one that ended with wins in two of the biggest turf races run on the globe. But he’s been doing this for a long time, so long that he won a race on the first ever Breeders’ Cup Day card way back in 1984 at a racetrack that will soon be a football stadium. He won the inaugural GI Breeders’ Cup Mile, run at Hollywood Park, with Royal Heroine (Ire) (Lypheor {GB}).

Despite the giddy nature of the prior 600 words I have written, Enable will not get my Eclipse Award vote for champion turf filly or mare. That would be terribly unfair to Sistercharlie (Ire) (Myboycharlie {Ire}). With her win yesterday in the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, she has won four Grade I races this year, all of them on U.S. soil. She shouldn’t be overtaken by a horse who raced just once this year in this country.

The other big story yesterday, of course, was Accelerate. You had to feel good for the classy John Sadler, who was in the spotlight all week for all the wrong reasons. His 0 for 41 record in the Breeders’ Cup was one of the biggest stories of the week and Sadler had to hear about it over and over again. He handled it with dignity and never got ruffled. As the day went on, you really were starting to believe that someone out there had a Sadler voodoo doll and was sticking pins in it. Selcourt (Tiz Wonderful) looked like a strong contender in the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and finished 12th. On paper, Catalina Cruiser (Union Rags) looked like he couldn’t lose in the GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He ran sixth. Sadler fared much better in the Mile where Catapult (Kitten’s Joy) was second. Still, it was another loser and Sadler went into the Classic at 0 for 44.

Though winning the Classic, Accelerate will still go down as one of the unluckier horses in recent times. In virtually any other year he would have been a unanimous choice for Horse of the Year. This year, there’s very little chance that he will win out over Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy).

It was also a remarkable day for Peter Miller, who had two winners, both of them repeat winners in the Breeders’ Cup. That’s not easy to do, but Stormy Liberal (Stormy Atlantic) won the GI Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for the second straight year and Roy H (More Than Ready) did the same in the GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

What was also notable about this Breeders’ Cup is that it shed further light on the divide between the haves and have nots in horse racing. The “little guys” never stood a chance. The tone was set when the very first winner, Bulletin (City Zip), won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint for Todd Pletcher and the ownership group of WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club and SF Racing LLC. We saw two wins by Juddmonte, one from Godolphin, Seth Klarman, Peter Brant, Gary and Mary West and Sol Kumin and partners. On the trainer front, Chad Brown won twice and other winners included Charlie Appleby, Bob Baffert, Michael Stoute, Mark Casse and Gosden. This was not a Breeders’ Cup for the Uriah St. Lewises of the world.

It will be hard for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup to top this one, but it might just find a way. How about Enable coming back after winning her third straight Arc and going for her second straight Turf? One can always dream, can’t they.

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