Enable Faces History; O'Brien Arc Runners Scratched

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Enable after winning her first Arc | Scoop Dyga

She is here. She made it. Relax, breathe easier. All the personnel linked by her journey from Juddmonte foal to Clarehaven thoroughbred icon have their work complete. There is only Frankie now in the human chain that connects to the wondermare whose very name evokes positivity and entitlement. At 4:05pm Parisian time, Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) brings closure to her epic odyssey against a suitably dramatic climatic backdrop. As if she has summoned the trinity of gods of the wind, the rain and the clouds to frame her historic bid for that tantalisingly elusive third G1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. We are in the era of the super fillies and mares and the representative of the leading global producer of racehorse greatness is the template for all who follow after.

Twelve months ago, the bay with more than a just quantity of Northern Dancer-Sadler's Wells-Galileo blood was denied the improbable hat-trick by a combination of factors. Similarly wet ground and a peaking Fabre project in Waldgeist (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) robbed her of the ultimate accolade and a year on the obstacles are both the same and different. While the going cannot be used as an excuse for a daughter of the easy-ground specialist Nathaniel who boasts two King Georges, an Arc and a Yorkshire Oaks on a surface softer than good, there is always the possibility of a dormant threat among the opposition.

Frankie is aware of the obstacles in the way of the mare who is so close to his heart. “For me, if I can win the third Arc, it is all for her. I will work hard to try to achieve that for her as I want her to be remembered as one of the all-time greats,” he explained. “She can only be called that if she wins a third Arc. She came so close last year and we will now roll the dice again. I actually don't feel as nervous, as last year we were going for three in a row. Now that she has been beaten in the race last year, it takes a bit of pressure off. She has stayed in training for one reason and one reason only, and that is for a third win in the Arc.”

“She picked up a third King George along the way which was great, as that was another record, and I think John has got Enable in the best condition he can. I think we have her where we want her,” her rider added. “There is a lot of rain forecast at the moment and it depends how much we get. For sure it will be soft and it could be the extreme of very soft. That would put stamina into the equation and Stradivarius could come into the picture. He bolted up in the Ascot Gold Cup on soft ground and he is doing really well at the moment, so he would be a big threat which we have to respect. Enable is in a good frame of mind, though. She is aggressive at home, which is always a good sign with her. She seems in a good place.”

John Gosden added, “She travelled fine and everything has been fine. It's just a shame about the ground. She prefers the easy side of good, so she can show her class, but it is going to be a bit of a slog. It is drying up now and it is tacky, but you might get another shower or two. It is Longchamp, by the River Seine–it is deep. We're here and we're trying. Let's hope she gets a great run round and if she wins, marvellous, if she doesn't, she couldn't have done more for racing. These great racemares, they give everyone so much pleasure to see and race.”

(The quartet of Ballydoyle Arc runners were withdrawn late Saturday evening due to contaminated feed.)

As easy as it is to imagine a scenario where Frankie has time to glance around at the furlong pole as she careers towards impressive victory, the mind's eye can also envisage a decisive home-straight surge from the likes of the aptly-named In Swoop (Ire) (Adlerflug {Ger}). Western Europe's weather is currently so dire it could come down to a question of who can swim and the G1 Deutsches Derby hero certainly can. Or can Enable's comrade Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) with all those Wildenstein staying genes come through as he did in his sensational 10-length G1 Gold Cup success? Just as Enable's campaigning had led to this juncture, so Bjorn Nielsen's elite stayer seems to have been steered in this direction with fateful accuracy. Left out of the Arc picture until this year, the best of his kind since Ardross (Ire) who went so close in 1982 has not taken the easy option but can it pay off? As Robert Frost penned, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

“Enable's got a pal in there called Stradivarius and he's a similar, wonderful, consistent performer at Group 1 level. It's a pleasure to have them both there,” Gosden said. “If he handles the ground, he will run a big race. Frankie has called me and said it's pretty desperate ground, so I'm going to go to the inside but there are three races before us. May the best horse win, whoever it is.”

Then there is the Fabre factor, with the inclusion of Persian King (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) so leftfield it is almost too bizarre to ignore. Andre is the undisputed King of the Arc and he continues to defy the perceived “knowledge” well into his seventies. Few who witnessed the highly-talented 4-year-old's powerplay in the G1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp over a mile could have foreseen a tilt at this great stamina test, but when it comes to the master of Chantilly we all bend. No doubt he has seen something in the conditioning of Godolphin and Ballymore Thoroughbreds' imposing bay that makes this a gamble worth taking. The very fact that he is here is confirmation of where the race still stands in the pantheon of monuments globally. Of the nine French-trained winners since the turn of the millennium, Fabre was responsible for a trio and he is generally the first port of call when it comes to home pride. Persian King also has the assistance of “PC” in the saddle and last year's Arc weekend demonstrated just what an advantage that can be.

Domestic hopes also reside with Sottsass (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) and Raabihah (Sea the Stars {Ire}) from Southern France's guru Jean-Claude Rouget and the former has vital experience of combat in this particular arena. Toughing it out when third as a still raw 3-year-old in the mud last year, Peter Brant's flag-bearer has just 1 1/4 lengths to make up on Enable from 2019. It is worth bearing in mind that Waldgeist was beaten further by her in 2018 before emerging stronger a year on to reverse the form. If he is successful, Sottsass will be the first winner of the “new” G1 Prix du Jockey Club to prevail in this since its distance was diminished to 10 1/2 furlongs in 2005. He is the stable's number one, with Shadwell's Raabihah untried on ground slower than good-to-soft and needing a significant upgrade on her latest second in the course-and-distance G1 Prix Vermeille Sept. 13.

“I'm of the opinion that Sottsass is on much better terms with himself at this stage of the season,” Rouget commented. “This year, I haven't managed to get him in the same condition as he is in now, owing to a racing calendar which has been perturbed by the pandemic. However, neither have I wished to go overboard, so as to ensure that that he's a fresh horse come the Arc, which has always been his objective. Raabihah is similarly in peak condition. Our only question mark is the ground. This isn't in the sense that she would be inconvenienced by a heavy track–we simply don't know, because she has yet to tackle very soft conditions.”

ParisLongchamp's card kicks off with the G1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, where Marie McCartan's Jun3 20 G2 Coventry S. winner and Aug. 23 G1 Prix Morny runner-up Nando Parrado (GB) (Kodiac {GB}) steps up to seven furlongs for the first time. Now that Ballydoyle's St Mark's Basilica (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) has been withdrawn, the Clive Cox runner faces an easier task and his trainer commented, “I'm very pleased, because he is in excellent form and it gives me confidence knowing that he will handle the conditions–that is a great plus, given the weather forecast.”

French representation had looked weak there and only slightly better among the fillies assembled for the G1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac before the O'Brien defections, but with John Oxley's Pretty Gorgeous (Fr) (Lawman {Fr}) now scratched France's main contender King's Harlequin (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) comes firmly into the equation. Racing in the Sangster silks, she has to turn around the form of her defeat when third to Fev Rover (Ire) (Gutaifan {Ire}) in the G2 Prix du Calvados over seven furlongs at Deauville Aug. 22. Fev Rover's syndicate manager Nick Bradley said, “She's in serious form at home. I spoke to Richard [Fahey] on Friday morning and she's a lot more professional than when Ben [Curtis] last rode her at Sandown.” King's Harlequin at least has course-and-distance winning form, having subsequently beaten 'TDN Rising Star' Harajuku (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) and Coeursamba (Fr) (The Wow Signal {Ire}) in the Sept. 10 G3 Prix d'Aumale. The latter was bought on Saturday evening for €400,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale by Haras du Saubouas on behalf of Mohamed Fahad Al Attiyah.

The G1 Prix de l'Opera Longines is another race to lose out due to the O'Brien withdrawals, with the fascinating rematch between the July 5 G1 Prix de Diane one-two Fancy Blue (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) and Alpine Star (Ire) (Sea the Moon {Ger}) now shelved with the former's trainer Donnacha forced to bypass the contest. The Niarchos Family's G1 Coronation S. heroine Alpine Star has since run Palace Pier (GB) (Kingman {GB}) to 3/4 of a length when runner-up in the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois on heavy going at Deauville Aug. 16 and will relish the step back up in trip. Not that the Opera was a two-horse race, as one of the best renewals of recent times also sees Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's unbeaten June 14 G1 Prix Saint Alary and Aug. 22 G2 Prix de la Nonette winner Tawkeel (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}) line up alongside The Aga Khan's impressive Prix Vermeille heroine Tarnawa (Ire) (Shamardal). Tawkeel's trainer Jean-Claude Rouget said, “She doesn't share that characteristic that has bedevilled other members of the same family that I've trained, in the sense that they've made flying starts to their career which they haven't backed up,” he said. “She, on the contrary, has done nothing but progress and each time she has astonished me.”

Alongside Love, the card is also missing another celebrity due to the ground in Battaash (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) who was understandably removed from the G1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines picture having flopped when 14th in similar conditions 12 months ago. Impressive when successful on that occasion, Bearstone Stud's Glass Slippers (GB) (Dream Ahead) was back to winning ways in The Curragh's G1 Flying Five Sept. 13 and on the face of it might only have to reproduce that form to bring up back-to-back successes. “It was soft ground last year and she won it well,” jockey Tom Eaves said. “She has come out of Ireland well and we are looking forward to Sunday. She's in good form and came to herself at this time last year.” This is far from a strong edition of the five-furlong sprint and the Flying Five runner-up Keep Busy (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) and fifth Make a Challenge (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) look the most realistic threats.

Where the Abbaye lacks depth, there is a fascinating renewal of the G1 Qatar Prix de la Foret to bring the top-level action to a close as Godolphin's Earthlight (Ire) (Shamardal) returns to the course and distance of his easy win in the Sept. 13 G3 Prix du Pin. Not out of second gear when beating the fellow Andre Fabre-trained Tropbeau (GB) (Showcasing {GB}), last year's G1 Prix Morny and G1 Middle Park S. winner has come off worse in the draw than the winner of the last two renewals of this, One Master (GB) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}). “Earthlight is in the best form he has been in all year,” Andre Fabre said. “Mickael commented after his last piece of work that he feels better than ever, both mentally and physically. He is a laid-back horse, but with a devastating turn of foot and I am hopeful of a very good run here. My only concerns are around the level of form of the 3-year-olds this year.”

At home on easy ground, Lael Stable's One Master looks as good as ever, but was 3 1/2-lengths second to Ross Harmon's Safe Voyage (Ire) (Fast Company {Ire}) in the Aug. 22 G2 City of York S. and there is no obvious reason for her to reverse that. Safe Voyage, who also acts on deep ground, has since won Leopardstown's G2 Boomerang Mile Sept. 12 and has the extra stamina that may be a prized asset in these conditions.

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