Get set to watch the sparks fly with electric Enable out to strut her stuff
Tom Kerr looks forward to witnessing a filly on the path to greatness
This is an era of flying fillies and wondermares who capture the imagination and transcend their sport. Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra did it in America, Australia has had Black Caviar and Winx, France has boasted Treve and Goldikova. Now Britain might have a heroine to match them all: Enable.
John Gosden's filly has yet to enter the public consciousness as some of those did but if she continues her astonishing run of form it is only a matter of time until she does, for she has looked not just unbeatable so far but has done her winning with a poise and swagger that looks a lot like brilliance.
In truth Thursday is only a stepping stone to fame, with October's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (should she win it) likely to be the race that marks Enable's passage from champion to heroine. Remarkably, she is already odds-on in places for Europe's most prestigious race, testament to the sequence of imperious wins she has strung together since getting turned over on her seasonal debut at Newbury in April.
Since that reversal she has won three Oaks – the Cheshire, British and Irish – each by a greater margin than the one before. Last month, she took on the boys at Group 1 level for the first time and handed out a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes thrashing amid driving rain at Ascot, beating Ulysses by four and a half lengths.
Compared to that, the Darley Yorkshire Oaks looks a straightforward task, reflected in the long odds-on price available about Enable. But, as Enable's connections know, nothing is truly straightforward on the Knavesmire.
Old York's odds-on cemetery
Saratoga racecourse in New York state is known as the graveyard of champions. The Knavesmire in old York has not earned such an ominous nickname, but it has still buried a few heroes over the years.
Brigadier Gerard famously got turned over by Roberto in the inaugural running of the International in 1972 and since then dozens of short-priced favourites have met their Waterloo at York. In recent years, Golden Horn and Taghrooda have both been stunned at short odds (4-9f and 1-5f) at this meeting.
John Gosden trained both of those and so is no stranger to York's fickle fortune for even the most fancied of runners, while Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Enable's owner Khalid Abdullah, is also emphasising the size of the task before his filly.
“In all the big races everything has to go right, it doesn’t matter who or what you are,” he said. “If you don’t bring your A-game, no matter how good you are, you're not going to win.
“That's the hardest thing for people outside racing to understand. They're not machines and you can’t just change the tyres, fill up the oil, or whatever. When a horse is on form it always looks like smooth clockwork, but getting them to the races and in the best shape of mind is not an easy thing to do."
What could get close?
Just five fillies oppose Enable but at least two of them promise to offer enough to cast some doubt on the result, although both, being four-year-olds, must concede weight to the favourite.
The first is Roger Varian's Nezwaah, who most recently beat Rain Goddess by three and a quarter lengths in the Group 1 Pretty Polly. Enable beat the same filly by five and a half lengths two weeks later, suggesting the step up in trip – this will be Nezwaah's first attempt at a mile and a half – will have to bring about improvement if she is to challenge the favourite.
The second is Queen's Trust, who has not hit the scoresheet in three starts this season but won the Filly & Mare Turf at the Breeders' Cup last November. Frankie Dettori, who rides Enable, knows plenty about this rival – he rode her to victory at Santa Anita – and he will also know that her trainer Sir Michael Stoute is bidding for a record-breaking tenth win in this race (although his last winner was as far back as 2004).
Frankie Dettori has solid chances of bringing up a Group-race double at York as he earlier partners Happy Like A Fool, the Wesley Ward-trained juvenile, in the Sky Bet Lowther.
Happy Like A Fool, whose rivals include impressive Goodwood maiden winner Threading, was only second when an odds-on favourite in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, a rare blip on Ward's otherwise excellent record at the royal meeting.
More recently, she was a late withdrawal from the Molecomb at Glorious Goodwood after downpours struck the track. Similar weather hit York on Wednesday morning but gave way to bright sunshine by the end of the day, with the forecast set fair for the rest of the week.
That will be something of a change for Enable, who not only won the King George in driving rain but triumphed at Epsom in the middle of a freak thunderstorm. The electric energy of that day seemed to suit her – at York she will have to create her own atmosphere, a task we hope this wondermare-in-waiting will be well capable of.