The legend that is Enable and other Breeders' Cup reflections
by DICK POWELL
How lucky are we that superstar horses like ENABLE and WINX are still racing? This is a great time to follow horse racing around the world with legendary horses competing and still building their reputations. Take a moment and be thankful that we get to see them whether it is in person or on television.
Enable was the Horse of the Year in Europe in 2017 based on five straight Group 1 wins. Once stretched out in distance, she won the Epsom Oaks, Irish Oaks, beat males in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth, the Yorkshire Oaks, and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe by 2 1/2 lengths.
Lucky for us, owner Juddmonte Farms announced that they would bring her back to defend her Arc title but this year's path tested every ounce of John Gosden's training ability. After many setbacks, she appeared on September 8 on the Polytrack at Kempton Park and won going 1 1/2 miles in the September (G3). Can't remember any Arc winner taking that path but the timing was what Gosden wanted and it enabled him to continue to train her forwardly.
In this year's Arc, Enable drew well and Frankie Dettori opened up a gap in the stretch that made it impossible to get caught. She held on by a desperate head and immediately, Gosden's team said they were coming to America for the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). Many Arc winners have tried to win the Transatlantic double but none had succeeded.
Only having two wins and a very hard effort in the Arc made it difficult to determine if she could continue to move forward or would it hurt her. The bettors knew the answer as they sent her off as the 4-5 favorite with Frankie Dettori.
Dettori had two earlier turf mounts and knew that the drying-out Churchill Downs turf course had better footing on the outside as the moisture from the recent rains drained down towards the inside. In the Turf, he broke Enable sharp and had her prominently placed. Her tactical speed keeps her out of trouble and Frankie had her four wide down the backstretch the second time. Heading towards the final turn, Frankie and Enable had company on their outside as Wayne Lordan moved HUNTING HORN up on her outside and tried to keep her bottled up.
It worked for a moment and when they turned for home, Enable was engaging with Hunting Horn. While this was going on far off the inner hedge, Ryan Moore had Hunting Horn's stablemate MAGICAL in a drive and for one, fleeting moment, it looked like Enable might lose. Moore is as tough a finishing jockey as there is and Frankie had to pull out all stops in the stretch run. For another fleeting moment, it looked like Frankie was going to pull another Swain at Churchill Downs as she drifted even farther out but nothing was going to deny her. Enable pulled away to a three-quarters of a length victory over her younger rival.
The question in the winner's circle was would she come back to race at the age of five? It makes some sense for a female since a top-tier colt can go to stud and get 200 broodmares at a $100,000 stud fee. A mare can only produce one foal per year and it can't be worth what a first-year stallion can generate, but Juddmonte is not in it for the money. It was only a few years ago that Treve won back-to-back Arcs and tried to win a third in 2015. She was a terrific fourth, only beaten 2 1/2 lengths, but that was it for her.
There is a theory that horses, especially mares, lose their racing spirit as they get older. In the case of Treve, she won a Group 1 stakes race that year at Saint-Cloud over Flintshire and then prepped for the Arc with a win in the Prix Vermeille (G1) at course and distance. Most top mares have enormous value coming off the track and there is not a big sample of those that keep racing at the top of the game.
In Australia, not only do we have Winx still going strong at the age of seven but Makybe Diva won three straight renewals of the Melbourne Cup (G1) and Black Caviar remained unbeaten through the age of five after 25 starts. It can be done and keep your fingers crossed that Enable tries to do it.
The Churchill Downs' turf course was puzzling on Friday and Saturday for handicappers and riders. When the rain stopped and it started drying out, the inside 22 feet should have had the best footing since the temporary rail had just been taken down. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on Friday, BULLETIN gunned to the front, battled and pulled away in the stretch. The next turf race was the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and NEWSPAPEROFRECORD went to the front and never looked back.
Two races does not prove there is a trend but even in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), third-place finisher Somelikeithotbrown held on gamely after setting a demanding pace.
Saturday was a beautiful day and the turf dried out some more. The problem was that it dried out faster on the outside and instead of saving ground on the inside, like you are supposed to do on the turf, the preferred path was as far out as you wanted it to be. I have always maintained that a drying out main track is one of the toughest tracks to handicap and now we had a drying out turf course that some riders figured out. In Europe, it would have been listed as "Good with Yielding parts."
You might have noticed that the first two finishers in the Turf were females. Let's hope that the connections of MONOMOY'S GIRL noticed and begin to race her outside of her division. She would have every chance if she were to contest the Pegasus World Cup (G1) or any other major race on the dirt next year. She finished first in six straight Grade 1s against females, and anywhere else in the world she would be racing against open company.