Enable Wintering Well Ahead Of Royal Return

Enable beats Crystal Ocean and Waldgeist in the King George | racingfotos.com


NEWMARKET, UK—With the sun bouncing off the silk-smooth coat of Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}), it would be easy to imagine the scene at Clarehaven is taking place in late spring. But the temperature gauge is hovering just above zero and the tantalising glimpse of the brilliant mare will remain just that at this stage, with her next public appearance likely to be five months away.

Still, we are lucky to be seeing her at all. Had the weather gods been kinder and the ground less deep, perhaps she would have won her third consecutive Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and returned home to Banstead Manor Stud with the covering shed as her next important arena. Instead, following only the second defeat of her 15-race career in Paris in October, Enable is back in training at the age of six, her imperious demeanour shining as brightly as her gleaming bay coat in the midwinter sun.

She consents to stand and pose with her jockey Frankie Dettori—the Italian apparently wintering as well as the mare he loves so dearly—but Imran Shahwani, her daily partner, is soon back at her side as John Gosden and Lord Grimthorpe look on.

On Wednesday, the winner of the Longines World's Best Racehorse title will be announced in London. The award is decided by the IFHA on the top-rated performance among racehorses from all over the world and was presented jointly last year to Enable's erstwhile stable-mate Cracksman (GB) (Frankel {GB}) and the Australian wonder, Winx (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}). Enable will of course be in contention for the Longines prize this time around, and in many people's eyes, if such a title was decided on a body of work, she would be the red-hot favourite.

The Juddmonte homebred is now embarking on her fifth season in training at Gosden's Newmarket stable, where she has remained throughout the winter, albeit on an easy schedule.

The trainer explains, “We have the trotting rings indoor and out, and she loves doing that. She's in a great space and she's getting her down time. The Group 1 races tend to start June onwards—I know there's the Ganay and the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh but we don't really want to be travelling for her first run of the year. I thought we might prefer to have our first race at home. So the main races for her are summer onwards and then of course the big target is the Arc. No one said you have to win three in a row, we're two wins and a second and the idea is to try to get to the Arc so I wouldn't want to start her year too soon.”

Gosden adds, “I'm thrilled with how she's looking. She's very content and she does love her routine of training. If she didn't I'd be the first to say and she'd go off to the paddocks. She has great mental strength and she seems to enjoy it—she's one of those that you have to be careful not to let her overdo it.”

It was probably a fair assumption that the first Sunday of last October would mark Enable's swansong but Prince Khalid Abdullah has adopted a wonderfully sporting and, some might say, old-fashioned view in allowing the mare to remain in training in 2020. As the name implies, racehorses are bred to race, but the commercial elements of the industry often dictate that a horse is whisked from the track just as a fanbase is growing. Enable's legion of fans hardly needs boosting, but her followers will no doubt be thankful that her owner-breeder revels in her achievements despite his personal preference for shunning the limelight.

“I think Prince Khalid really enjoys seeing her race and the filly loves training and loves racing,” says Gosden. “She hasn't been over-raced in her career: just one run as a 2-year-old and then she was busy but loving her racing at three. Then of course we had an interruption with an injury and a little surgery at four, so she only had three runs, and then last year she had four runs.”

He continues, “Prince Khalid was clear that if she is really enjoying racing there was a desire to bring her back at six. I know we think six is old but actually in the world of jump racing they are just coming to their prime at that age and I've always felt down the years that if they are happy and enjoying their racing they are probably at their zenith at five anyhow. It was always the opinion of the great old American trainers like Charlie Whittingham and Woody Stephens, and to that extent I'm a great believer in it. It's not like she's been having ten races a year—she's only had seven races in the last two years.”

As Enable's daily exercise routine increases gradually over the coming months, her support team is aiming towards a seasonal debut at the Royal Meeting.

“We tried to make Royal Ascot last year but didn't quite get there—she ran two and a half weeks later and won the Eclipse—so we'll see where we go,” Gosden notes. “We'll probably again be looking towards Royal Ascot to start her season but we'll let her tell us. The key thing about her is that she's very proud and she carries herself very well. She's pretty expressive so you can pick up where you are with her. It was interesting when she got back on her favourite gallop last year, the Round Gallop on the Limekilns, suddenly all the signals were there again.”

Equally expressive but more in the manner of a slightly naughty schoolboy is Enable's stable-mate and fellow 6-year-old Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}). Bjorn Nielsen's homebred may be the class clown but his earnings of more than £2.5 million, not to mention his two £1 million bonuses, point to the fact that he is a stayer to be taken very seriously indeed.

“He goes out on the Heath and he shouts at everyone,” says Gosden of the dual Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers' Million winner. “He particularly likes the colour blue so he always shouts at the Godolphin string when he sees them coming. He's always been a great character. He's very nosey, he checks everything out and he's just a bundle of fun to be around.”

The trainer adds, “Mr Nielsen is very keen that we point towards Ascot to win the Gold Cup again. He was very sporting to run Stradivarius in that testing ground [on British Champions Day]. He ran a great race and got beaten a nose but that's not his ground, he has such a good turn of foot and it turned into just a little bit of a slog.

“He's been a pleasure to train. I think it will be one run before Royal Ascot, go for the Gold Cup and then we'll see after that.”

With 14 wins from his 20 races, Stradivarius has as much right to the name Cups King as did the late Bart Cummings, and while claiming his third Gold Cup is his main mission, he may not remain exclusively in staying company, with the Arc a possibility for the chesnut stallion.

Gosden says, “I think next autumn it could well be considered. He would have hated the ground we had last year but there have been Arcs run on quicker ground—Golden Horn won it on fastish ground—so if we have a dry autumn that would be a strong possibility.”

While Enable and Stradivarius have been enjoying some easier months since last autumn, the same cannot be said for the man charged with riding them. Frankie Dettori turned 49 in December but shows no signs of slowing down. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“I haven't stopped this year,” he says. “After the Champions meeting in October I went to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup then straight to Melbourne and back to England for the week. Then it was on to Japan for two weeks, Hong Kong for a week, then I came home for my birthday and Christmas. Just before New Year we got on the flight for Australia and I was there for two weeks and did all sorts of things: I played Polo badly with Zara Phillips, I raced on the beach and finished second last, I sang with Ronan Keating on stage, did the barrier draw for the Magic Millions, went to the zoo and went racing, but I didn't ride.”

The frenetic pace is set to continue for Dettori, who heads to Florida on Thursday for the Pegasus World Cup, then tests out the new turf course at King Abdulaziz racecourse in Riyadh ahead of the Saudi Cup before finally getting to spend some time with his family on a skiing holiday. Undoubtedly, however, one of his biggest thrills of the year will be when he is reunited with Enable.

“I love her,” he says simply. “It would be very hard to say that she's the best I've ridden because I've ridden some great horses but she's the one who has stayed with me the longest and she has the best CV. You probably have to go back to a horse like Brigadier Gerard to find a CV like hers. She's special and she has taken me emotionally to places no other horses have. To do my job you've got to love horses but I love her that little bit extra because we have experienced things together that I haven't with other horses. When we won at York last year, with all the crowd clapping and giving her a farewell, I couldn't stop my tears, but they were tears of joy.”

According to Dettori, Enable saves her brilliance for the racecourse. He says, “She tricks me all the time. When I come here to ride her, I put my helmet and my boots on and I can't wait to go to the stable, and I'm always thinking of the Enable of the Arc. But then we go out to work and she works average. She always does, and I always leave deflated. But I know when she goes racing she's a different horse.”

Of course, Enable isn't the only one to savour the big occasion. When it comes to jockeys, there is no greater showman than Dettori, though even he admits to feeling the pressure of his association with the star mare.

He says, “I get nervous and I get excited, but if I didn't get nervous for that kind of moment I wouldn't have a soul. You carry that sense of people's expectations and feel under the microscope but it's great, I wouldn't swap it for the world. It's horrible, but it's great.”


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