Enable: The Freakishly-Talented Three-Year-Old

Humble beginnings

Enable  made only one appearance as a two-year-old, winning a fillies' maiden right at the end of November on the all-weather at Newcastle, and started her three-year-old season a little way down the pecking order among the potential classic fillies at John Gosden's Clarehaven Stables.

She was still available at 25/1 for the Oaks in early-May, after she had finished a staying-on third behind well-regarded stablemate Shutter Speed (short-priced favourite and ridden by Frankie Dettori) in a conditions event at Newbury on her reappearance (turf debut).

Enable winning the Coral-Eclipse (Group 1)
Enable winning the Coral-Eclipse (Group 1) Picture: Pat Healy Photography

Shutter Speed was installed as joint favourite for the Oaks after her Newbury victory and another stablemate, Coronet, was a 10/1-chance for the race at the time. Gosden, who made a flying start to the season, particularly in the classic trials, described Enable in a Racing Post feature on his Oaks prospects (in which he mentioned six of his fillies being considered for the race) as 'a nice middle-distance prospect, but we'll know more after she runs in the Cheshire Oaks'.

Relentless on the Roodee

The Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks has only listed status and it had been ten years since the winner had gone on to score at Epsom (Light Shift for Henry Cecil). The Aidan O'Brien-trained Alluringly (evens favourite) and Enable (2/1) dominated both the betting and the race itself, in which they showed themselves clearly a cut above their rivals.

Enable winning the QATAR PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE Picture: Pat Healy Photography

Enable benefited from being stepped up in trip again and, with Dettori taking the mount on her for the first time, she travelled with plenty of zest and quickened into the lead three furlongs out before staying on to beat Alluringly by a length and three quarters, eased down in the final strides (third-placed Tansholpan finished nine lengths further back). With more improvement in her, and seemingly certain to relish the full mile and a half of the Oaks, Enable looked a genuine contender for Epsom.

Electric in Epsom storm

By the time the Oaks was run, torrential rain was falling at Epsom, with accompanying thunder and lightning, which probably contributed to the unfortunate incident in which Daddys Lil Darling, who would have been the first North American-trained runner in the Oaks, bolted on the way to the start and eventually parted company with her jockey Olivier Peslier before having to be withdrawn. When the race got under way, Ballydoyle runner Pocketfullofdreams forced the pace, going clear before halfway as she set a searching gallop which contributed to the Oaks being run in 2m 34.13sec, a record for the race since official times were kept.

Enable winning the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Fillies Group 1)
Enable winning the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Fillies Group 1) Picture: Pat Healy Photography

Enable got the better of a gripping duel with 1000 Guineas runner-up Rhododendron in the home straight, leading three furlongs out and again staying on strongly, forging clear over the final furlong to finish well on top. Enable's performance was on a par with that in the race of Ouija Board, which had been the best since those outstanding winners in the early-'nineties, Salsabil and User Friendly (Oh So Sharp's very fine performance in the race in 1985, when she won by six lengths, represents the high-water mark for Oaks performances in the last thirty years or so).

Classic double at the Curragh

For most fillies, winning the Oaks is the pinnacle of their achievements. Indeed, it is fairly unusual for an Oaks winner to go on to enhance her reputation much – if at all – after winning at Epsom. Minding had done so twelve months earlier when beating the very best of the milers among the colts in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on British Champions Day, and the 2014 winner Taghrooda had been another outstanding example. Taghrooda, trained like Enable by Gosden, went on to success in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, becoming only the third three-year-old filly to win the Ascot showpiece after the French-trained pair Dahlia and Pawneese back in the 'seventies.

Taghrooda didn't run between the Oaks and the King George but Enable took in another classic on the way. Enable started at 5/2-on for the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh where Dettori, who injured a shoulder in a parade-ring incident at Yarmouth in mid-June which forced him to miss Royal Ascot, made an earlier-than-expected return to the saddle to partner Enable to another wide-margin victory over Pretty Polly runner-up Rain Goddess. Enable could have produced more, and won by further than five and a half lengths, had the situation required it, and she didn't need to match her Epsom form, having the Irish Oaks in the bag soon after quickening to lead two furlongs out (`When I asked her to go she flew, and it was hands and heels from there,' said Dettori).

'Best filly I've trained' – King George

Enable's participation in the King George was confirmed when she came out of the Irish Oaks `full of herself', in the words of her trainer. There was a fortnight between the two races, during which time Dettori existed on a diet of `white fish, vegetables and water' to ensure that he lost 7 lb to get down to his minimum riding weight of 8-7, a mark at which he has ridden only rarely in recent years.

The prevailing soft ground (further significant rain in the hour before the race made conditions unusually testing) resulted in Enable replacing ante-post favourite Highland Reel, the previous year's winner, at the head of the market in the week leading up to the race. Conditions were not ideal for some in the King George field, most notably for Highland Reel who clearly wasn't at his best and managed only fourth after racing wide for a long way, with his rider seemingly in search of better ground. There was no reason, however, to think that the placed horses, Ulysses and Idaho, did not run to form.

Enable beat them comprehensively, taking the lead early in the home straight and staying on strongly when ridden over two furlongs out to draw clear for an impressive win by four and a half lengths and three quarters of a length. Trainers are sometimes reluctant to place their best horses in a pecking order but Gosden had no hesitation after the King George in hailing Enable as `the best filly I've trained.'

Stroll on the Knavesmire

Enable became a short-priced favourite for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe the moment she passed the post in the King George and had a final warm up for Chantilly with an all-the-way win in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks in August, winning with plenty in hand from Coronet and the four-year-olds Queen's Trust and Nezwaah. Enable's five-length winning margin was the widest in the race since the same owner's Quiff won the 2004 edition by eleven lengths.

Champagne moment at Chantilly

The latest Arc was hosted by Chantilly for the second year running while the redevelopment was completed at Longchamp. Chantilly's track is tighter than that at Longchamp and Enable's trainer felt that `things could well go wrong in an eighteen-runner field and I'd feel a lot more confident if the race was at Longchamp.' He need not have worried.

Everything went like clockwork for Enable (who looked very well beforehand and still had her summer coat), with Dettori keen not to end up trapped on the rail, from a potentially awkward draw in stall two, and quickly securing an ideal spot. Enable was settled behind a couple of the Ballydoyle runners, Idaho and Order of St George, as they set the pace (`I had toyed with the idea of making the running if I needed to, but was soon where I wanted to be, with plenty of room and free air on my left,' said Dettori afterwards). Enable travelled with her usual enthusiasm and was sent to the front two furlongs out, soon bursting clear and then sustaining her run to win smoothly by two and a half lengths, well on top in the closing stages.

`She was running away rounding the home turn,' said Dettori, `I was going so well, striking Order of St George's heels, and I couldn't wait to get to the four-hundred-metre mark. When I asked her, it was just a question of counting the furlong sticks, it was so effortless for her, too perfect.'

The Arc form had a solid look to it with Enable's top-class performance matching that of Treve in the race at the same age. The Prix Ganay winner Cloth of Stars produced a career best to finish second, but he never looked like making any impression on the winner. Ulysses came a creditable third, a further length and a quarter behind Cloth of Stars and a little closer to Enable than he had been at Ascot, while Order of St George completed the frame, doing best of the five runners saddled by Aidan O'Brien who had saddled the first three the previous year when Order of St George had finished third behind Found and Highland Reel (who didn't contest the latest running).

  • First filly or mare trained in Britain to win the Arc
  • First filly to complete King George/Arc double in the same season
  • Joint-second highest-rated filly trained in Britain since 1985, behind only the 135-rated Pebbles
  • Record fifth winner of the Arc for owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah
  • Record fifth winning ride in the Arc for jockey Frankie Dettori
  • Fourteenth filly to complete the Oaks/Irish Oaks double