Enable may aim to dethrone Highland Reel in King George

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July 24th, 2017

After demolishing fellow three-year-old fillies in the Oaks (G1) at Epsom and the Irish Oaks (G1) last time out July 15, Enable appears set to wheel back versus older males in Saturday’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot.

The “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) was already expected to feature defending champion Highland Reel and full brother Idaho from the Aidan O’Brien yard, plus Sir Michael Stoute’s Ulysses. The presence of Juddmonte’s dual classic-winning filly would be a boon to the midsummer showpiece, which also has implications for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1).

“Enable will be left in the King George at the five-day stage, and a decision will be taken on Wednesday about her participation at Ascot,” trainer John Gosden told Racing Post.

“She cantered this morning (Monday) and seems fine in herself and, as she flew to Ireland and back, she didn't take that much out of herself.”

A cut on her leg sustained in the Irish Oaks was reportedly a non-issue, clearing the way for serious planning.

While Enable always had the King George option, the August 24 Yorkshire Oaks (G1) shaped as perhaps her likeliest target. And the case of Taghrooda, also trained by Gosden, reinforced the idea. The 2014 Epsom Oaks winner skipped the Curragh in favor of the King George, where she became the first three-year-old filly to win since Pawneese in 1976. The fact that Enable pursued the Epsom/Irish Oaks double could have implied she wouldn’t take in the King George along the way.

But Gosden sent the antepost markets into motion by keeping Enable in the King George at Monday’s entry stage, and she’s now trading as the favorite.

“As the Yorkshire Oaks is that much later this year, it makes sense to have a look at Ascot while she's in such good form,” Gosden offered.

The calendar doesn’t strike me as that dissimilar, but in any event, Enable is certainly going from strength to strength through four starts this season. The daughter of past Gosden trainee Nathaniel, who landed the 2011 King George at three and lost on the bob to Danedream in 2012, is thriving on her schedule, and why not strike while the iron’s hot? As a sophomore filly, Enable receives a 14-pound weight concession from the older males.

Highland Reel (pictured) is pretty hot himself at the moment. The reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf hero comes off victories in the Coronation Cup (G1) over 1 1/2 miles at Epsom and the Prince of Wales’s (G1) on the cutback to 1 1/4 miles at Royal Ascot. Idaho also exits a Royal Ascot victory in the 1 1/2-mile Hardwicke (G2), the course-and-distance prep for the King George.

Ulysses, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita and third in the Prince of Wales’s, seeks to turn the tables on Highland Reel. Likewise a son of Galileo, the Niarchos Family homebred just nipped Godolphin’s Barney Roy in the Eclipse (G1) at Sandown, the scene of his comeback score in the April 28 Gordon Richards (G3).

Course condition may derail Ulysses’ plans, though. Soft in the aftermath of weekend rain, Ascot is forecast to receive additional showers. It shouldn’t be a washout, but there probably won’t be enough dry intervals for the course to be any quicker than “good” at best.

“We've just got to keep an eye on the weather,” the Niarchos Family’s racing manager Alan Cooper told Racing Post, “as we don't want the ground to be soft. But the plan is to run.”

One who will love every single raindrop is Jack Hobbs, who bombed behind Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’s. But on yielding ground in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), the Godolphin runner won handily with Highland Reel a ring-rusty last (on unsuitable going for him). Jack Hobbs, a stablemate of Enable’s would give Gosden a reasonable chance at the exacta.

Godolphin could be overloaded, with the Charlie Appleby pair of Hawkbill and Frontiersman, the top two from the recent Princess of Wales’s (G2) at Newmarket, and Saeed bin Suroor’s sophomore Benbatl, victorious in Royal Ascot’s Hampton Court (G3) following his fine fifth in the Derby (G1).

The best three-year-old colt engaged is Permian, who beat Benbatl in the Dante (G2), rebounded from an Epsom disappointment in the King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot, and just lost a heartbreaker in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1). The Mark Johnston trainee led virtually the entire way, except on the wire. Shakeel nipped him on the one stride that counted, but not either side of the line in the epitome of a brutal beat. Permian is also under consideration for a few other majors, including the August 12 Secretariat (G1), and Enable’s decision may be a factor in his.

International intrigue is furnished by Argentine shipper Sixties Song, winner of the prestigious Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (G1) (South America’s “Arc”) and Gran Premio Latinoamericano (G1). The Alfredo Gaitan Dassie charge was third, on heavy ground, in the “Win & You’re In” Gran Premio 25 de Mayo (G1).

Rounding out the 16 eligibles are My Dream Boat, winless since shocking Found in last summer’s Prince of Wales’s and fourth in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) in his latest; David Simcock’s duo of Desert Encounter, third in the Eclipse at 50-1, and Algometer, third in the Princess of Wales’s; O’Brien’s Johannes Vermeer and US Army Ranger; and Gosden’s Maverick Wave.

Final declarations for Saturday’s card, including a pair of juvenile stakes in the Princess Margaret (G3) for fillies and the Pat Eddery (formerly Winkfield), will be announced Thursday.

Enable photo by Andy Watts/ via Epsom Facebook

Highland Reel photo by Frank Sorge/