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From Newcastle to Paris and Kentucky: how Enable conquered the world

Peter Thomas with a race-by-race account of the mare's glittering career

Frankie Dettori acknowledges the crowd at Sandown after Enable's 2019 Coral-Eclipse win
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Newcastle, November 28, 2016 Maiden Fillies’ Stakes (Div I), 1m

It was officially a Class 5 event but several of the 'right' Newmarket yards were represented and Enable was allowed to go off 7-2 second favourite. Once the gates opened, however, it was a cut-and-dried affair, as the latent superstar was waited with in rear, made her ground easily in mid-race to sit on the heels of the leaders, then surged into a winning lead passing the furlong pole, with three and three-quarter lengths to spare over Lucy Wadham’s Gallifrey at the line. Robert Havlin said afterwards that she was "a nice filly". He wasn't wrong. 

Newbury, April 21, 2017
Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup EBF Stallions Conditions Stakes, 1m2f

In the immediate aftermath it may have looked a case of limitations exposed for Enable, with William Buick wearing the unfancied green cap of Khalid Abdullah, as she could finish only third behind stablemate and hot favourite Shutter Speed.

Quieter reflection, however, showed a filly already in need of a stiffer test of stamina, running on at the death and almost snatching second from Raheen House, two and three-quarter lengths off the winner. Frankie Dettori was on board the Gosden first string this time, but it was the last time anybody else was allowed on Enable on a racecourse and the only time she has been beaten in 14 runs.

Enable and Frankie Dettori (right) win the Cheshire Oaks at Chester in May 2017

Chester, May 10, 2017
Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks (Listed), 1m3½f

With her need for a longer trip now confirmed as a seam to be mined, Enable began her Oaks preparation with a convincing win over evens favourite Alluringly, although it was a performance that owed as much to speed as it did to stamina. Dettori, unperturbed by a dawdling early pace, was content to sit just off the pace before taking the lead three furlongs from home and quickening into a decisive lead at the two pole. Frankie took his foot off the gas close home, but it was full speed ahead for Epsom.

Epsom, June 2, 2017
Investec Oaks (Group 1), 1m4f

Here it was, the first proof positive that Enable was truly something special. Maybe not the legend we have come to stand in awe of, but a Classic winner with pretensions to greatness, at least. John Gosden had an inkling of that quality after Chester and his opinion was vindicated as his rising star produced a performance out of the top drawer.

Running through the murk of a thunderstorm for extra dramatic effect, she loomed large alongside Aidan O'Brien's warm favourite Rhododendron as the pair drew clear of the pack, then drew from her deep well of stamina to pull five lengths clear in the last furlong. The world was now her oyster.

Enable and Frankie Dettori come home under dark skies at Epsom as they land the Oaks in June 2017

Curragh, July 15, 2017
Darley Irish Oaks (Group 1), 1m4f

Enable was out of the ordinary but that didn't mean there was any reason to stray far from the traditional path, so to Ireland she was sent, to dish out another five (and a bit) length beating to a Ballydoyle challenger, this time the sacrificial lamb Rain Goddess.

By this stage Enable was the undisputed queen of her generation, starting the 2-5 favourite, and again travelled sweetly for Dettori just behind a moderate pace before surging clear with the minimum of fuss. The colts and older horses were now in her sights and they were looking uneasy.

Ascot, July 29, 2017
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Group 1), 1m4f

The European Pattern demands that every superstar three-year-old filly, to be considered a superstar without qualification, sooner or later has to take on older horses and colts and beat them. Enable took on the task sooner rather than later, in the King George, and as an unseasonal consequence found herself taking on the weather gods as well, who served up a proper soft-ground test for her against top-drawer rivals from the previous two generations.

It was a race that did what a King George is supposed to do, sorting out the men and women from the boys and girls, and Enable emerged with her claims to greatness enhanced, tracking the pacemaker at an easy gallop before shooting clear two furlongs from home and outclassing rivals of the calibre of Ulysses, Idaho and Highland Reel. It was no more than a 5-4 favourite was entitled to do in receipt of allowances her maturity and physique suggested she didn't require, but it was irrefutable proof of her place at the top of the tree.

Frankie Dettori executes a flying dismount off Enable after the King George at Ascot in 2017

YorkAugust 24, 2017
Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Group 1), 1m4f

Odds of 1-4 told its own story. Here was a filly, by now rated 126, with every right to be hailed as the best horse on this continent – quite possibly all the others as well – and having already proved herself the superior of the Juddmonte International winner Ulysses at Ascot, those of her own sex held no fears at all. She duly disposed of top-class performers Coronet and Queen's Trust with the minimum of fuss, for a five-length success that cried out for her to be sent next to the Arc.

Chantilly, October 1, 2017
Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, 1m4f

Enable was nothing if not predictable. Wherever the Pattern asked her to go, she went, embracing every fresh challenge as simply another opportunity to prove herself the best of the best.

Sent off the 10-11 favourite at Chantilly, and with a few pounds in hand of all her rivals, she nonetheless faced 17 rivals on soft going, but, with the benefit of an inside draw and a clear passage from her prominent position, she got the job done with that familiar willing thrust.

She saw off Cloth Of Stars and Ulysses by two and a half lengths and more, looking awesome in her shining summer coat. Rarely can Dettori have earned so much kudos for completing such a straightforward task.  

Enable gallops to glory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe under Frankie Dettori in 2017

KemptonSeptember 8, 2018
188Bet September Stakes (Group 3), 1m4f

The blip in her sequence of ten successes at the top level. Injury had decreed Enable should take a 342-day break and by the time the autumn came, Gosden was scrabbling around for an appropriate reintroduction for his star filly.

A four-runner race on the Polytrack may not have been everybody’s idea of a suitably glorious return, but she had to see off the high-class Crystal Ocean (albeit in receipt of 8lb) and overcome her lengthy absence if she were not to ever-so-slightly tarnish her magnificent reputation. She'd already won on Tapeta and she was, after all, the best in the business, but it was still a relief to see her score by a convincing three and a half lengths and tee up a second Arc raid.

Longchamp, October 7, 2018
Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Group 1), 1m4f

Another glory day but one marked by the kind of jitters we had become unaccustomed to when Enable set foot on the racecourse. Five consecutive Group 1s had come her way almost as a matter of course before her injury, and we were hoping her successful Group 3 return might signal a similarly imperious spree, but although she delivered her trademark burst of gusto at the quarter-mile mark, she hadn't yet seen off the three-year-old filly Sea Of Class, who came from the Parisian clouds to get within a short neck of our heroine.

It may have made Frankie's knees wobble in the final strides, and some said the runner-up was unlucky, but Enable, perhaps not at her best, had surely earned a little luck.

Enable and Frankie Dettori after their second Arc success in 2018

Churchill DownsNovember 3, 2018
Breeders’ Cup Turf (Grade 1), 1m4f

To more timid souls, the temptation might have been to draw stumps after a troubled season and two glorious victories in Europe, but for Messrs Abdullah, Gosden and Dettori the thought of a Breeders' Cup raid clearly acted as a goad rather than a deterrent.

It was a minor gamble that paid off in a major way, with Dettori explaining that the great filly suffered a little wheelspin on the rain-hit surface before he pulled her wide in the straight to find fresh ground, at which point she charged ahead, fending off the bold challenge of Magical by three-quarters of a length at 8-13.

Gosden lauded her "great mental strength" and courage, declaring it a miracle that she was in Kentucky at all after such a troubled year. But then we were becoming used to miracles from a filly with a comfort zone as broad as the Atlantic Ocean itself.

Sandown, July 6, 2019
Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Group 1), 1m2f

Enable's final season was mapped out to start late and begin with a bang, but there were a few raised eyebrows when she was carded to reappear over the ten-furlong trip at which she had been beaten off the back of a 144-day break at the start of her three-year-old campaign.

This time she had a 245-day absence to overcome and Gosden reported afterwards that she had been only 85 per cent ready, but Dettori cannily tracked the Ballydoyle pacemaker before going about his business and staying on well enough to fend off Magical for a third time. It was functional more than spectacular, but as a foundation stone it couldn't have been better.

Ascot, July 27, 2019
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes (Group 1), 1m4f

Cotton wool must have been in short supply at Clarehaven through the summer, as Enable was once again unleashed against the hottest of competition, this time being asked to take on Prince of Wales's Stakes winner Crystal Ocean, albeit back at her optimum trip.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained challenger provided her stiffest test for many a moon, but the 8-15 favourite rose to the occasion yet again and refused to surrender a slender yet ultimately decisive advantage throughout the last 100 yards. A neck was the verdict and our admiration for her grew that little bit more.

York, August 22, 2019
Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Group 1), 1m4f

They were hardly queuing up to take her on by now, but the gutsy and top-class Magical was sent to provide meaningful opposition once more, even though the end result was the same: convincing defeat, by two and three-quarter lengths, at the hands of a barely beatable superstar.

Enable sweated up beforehand but showed no real sign of her mighty dust-up with Crystal Ocean the previous month, landing odds of 1-4 in what proved to be little more than a lap of honour round the Knavesmire en route to Paris.

Longchamp, October 6, 2019
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Group 1), 1m4f

It was supposed to be a glorious swansong, but in ground that was better for ducks than racehorses, Enable met her match in the shape of the admirable Waldgeist, trained by the French master Andre Fabre and ridden to a nicety by Pierre-Charles Boudot to record a career-best effort.

With the dual Arc winner being sent off 1-2 favourite for her hat-trick, a frisson of disappointment accompanied her length-and-three-quarters defeat at the hands of a horse she'd beaten the three times they'd met before, but this was very much a day to celebrate a mare who once again gave her all.

Dettori rode a positive race and looked to have shaken off all-comers when he hit the front at the two pole, but as he went to the well for what was intended to be the final time in her career, he found her f2ndading alarmingly in the desperate ground, just as Waldgeist raised an unanswerable late charge.

There were tears from the rider and no doubt from Enable's legion of supporters, but the silver lining to this Parisian cloud was that her quest for a third Arc was extended until October 2020, which meant we had another year to enjoy her.

Sandown, July 5, 2020
Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Group 1), 1m2f

To begin what was absolutely definitely going to be her last season in training, Enable was sent to Sandown, dropping down in trip once again for a race that hardly played to her strengths anymore but fitted neatly into a programme designed with one target in mind: that elusive third Arc.

So, although she was comprehensively outgunned by the front-running Ghaiyyath in front of an empty grandstand, there was no sense of doom and gloom in the camp. She had been downed by a race-fit rival - who was by this stage recognised, on ratings at least, as the best horse in the world - and she'd been running on stoutly at the finish, so what was not to like about these first tiny steps on the road back to Paris?

Ascot, July 25, 2020
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes (Group 1), 1m4f

This was just the ticket: a first-class ticket to the Arc, full steam ahead. It wasn't quite vintage Enable, but then with only two rivals to beat -both of them from Ballydoyle, one of them a pacemaker, the other a flop, later said to have a stone bruise - it didn't need to be. The bold mare saw off Sovereign by five and a half lengths for an unprecedented third King George success, with Japan eased once his chance had gone, and Dettori picked up his percentage for what amounted to little more than a nice piece of work.

It was just what the team must have been hoping for.

Kempton, September 5, 2020
Unibet September Stakes (Group 3), 1m4f

This was a race she had won two years ago and one that might have been tailor-made for her as an Arc prep, so it came as no surprise - especially with no Crystal Ocean in opposition this time - to see her sent off the 1-14 favourite, nor to see her brush aside her five rivals by upwards of seven lengths.

She came to the Sunbury venue rather than take on Love in the Juddmonte International; now the stage was set for the pair to go head to head on Europe's biggest stage.

Longchamp, October 4, 2020
Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Group 1), 1m4f

The stage was set for a thriller but it played out as a farce, with contaminated feed robbing the race of many of its leading players and desperate ground turning it into a tactical crawl embellished by all manner of shenanigans in the final stages. Enable's effort was slightly compromised by some vigorous scrimmaging around her, but in truth her chance was already long gone by that stage as she fell victim to the pedestrian pace and sticky surface.


Wondermare Enable retires: 'very few can match what she has given to racing'

Frankie Dettori on Enable: 'I had a little cry but more out of joy than sadness'

Members' Club: How to turn a great racemare into a great broodmare - what comes next for Enable

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Gosden lauded her great mental strength and courage, declaring it a miracle she was in Kentucky at all. But then we were becoming used to miracles
E.W. Terms