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She's back! Queen of the turf Enable returns to action in Coral-Eclipse

Enable: makes her highly anticipated seasonal reappearance on Sunday
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3.35 Sandown
Coral-Eclipse (Group 1) | 1m2f | 4yo+ | ITV/RTV

Enable makes her eagerly anticipated return in a star-studded Coral-Eclipse at Sandown but her connections have stressed it is only the first stop in another ambitious campaign for their leading lady.

This was the stage for her comeback last year, when she beat Magical before going on to land the King George in a titanic tussle with Crystal Ocean at Ascot and the Yorkshire Oaks for a second time.

The popular six-year-old has been off since suffering a heartbreaking defeat to Waldgeist in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, a race she was attempting to win for an unprecedented third time last October.

However, all roads once again lead to a repeat bid in Paris and, while there will sadly be few front row seats for her behind-closed-doors return, there will be thousands watching on with interest from home.

"She's in good form and is ready to run," said Teddy Grimthorpe, the longstanding racing manager to Enable's owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah. "Hopefully this is the beginning of a long campaign."

Earlier this week, her trainer John Gosden warned she may need her comeback run more than in recent seasons due to her age but she nonetheless remains a general 11-10 favourite for the Eclipse. 

She will bid to become the first mare to win the race twice and the first six-year-old to win since 1886, the year the race was first run.

"It's inevitable that's always going to be an issue," added Grimthorpe. "Six-year-olds can take a bit longer and we've got to be realistic but John's happy with her and we're hopeful of a very good run."

Enable (left) beating Magical in last year's Eclipse

It will not be made easy for Enable. Ghaiyyath is vying for top billing after an emphatic Coronation Cup victory last month, when he set a course record at Newmarket and finished clear of Anthony Van Dyck.

The five-year-old was following up an eight-and-a-half-length success in the 1m2f Dubai Millennium Stakes at Meydan and his trainer Charlie Appleby is confident in dropping him back to that trip.

"We've been delighted with his prep and feel this trip is well within his comfort zone," said Appleby, who won the 2016 Eclipse with Hawkbill.

Ghaiyyath finished tenth behind Enable on testing ground in the Arc but Appleby believes he will be a different proposition this season.

"He's put up big performances and not always backed them up but, as a five-year-old, we're dealing with a different animal. He's the finished article and has come out of his last race well," said Appleby. 

"We fully respect Enable. It gives us slight confidence that Ghaiyyath has a run under his belt in Europe, but we are talking about Enable, so I am not sure if it is too much of an advantage against a mare of her ability. We all have her to beat at the end of the day."

Ghaiyyath: an emphatic winner of the Coronation Cup at Newmarket

If Ghaiyyath has hit the ground running this season then Japan has begun his campaign at a bit of a stroll after finishing a disappointing fourth when favourite for the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Still, Japan is a standout name in the field of seven on the form of his successes in the Juddmonte International last August, when he beat Crystal Ocean by a head and the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp.

"Japan has been in good form since Ascot and we're happy with how everything has gone with him since," said his trainer Aidan O'Brien.

What they say

Andrew Balding, trainer of Bangkok
It’s not easy making all the running at Ascot but he gave it a good stab in the Prince of Wales's Stakes. He’s high-class on his day but is a victim of having won a Listed race [this year] and there aren’t a huge amount of options for him without having to carry a penalty.

Oisin Murphy, rider of Deirdre
She's well, her work's been good. This is a very good race and I've huge respect for Ghaiyyath and Enable.

Chris Richardson of Cheveley Park Stud, owners of Regal Reality
This has always been the plan. He ran remarkably well last time on ground that wasn't ideal. He possibly ran his best when finishing fourth last year after going all the way around the track. Fingers crossed he shows something we'll be able to build on.

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Magic Wand
Magic Wand has been in good form since the Curragh as well and we're hoping for a good run from her.

Read more:

Eclipse analysis: Graham Rodway on why Enable won't have things her own way

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Race analysis and trainer quotes as top speedsters meet in Coral Charge

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We are talking about Enable, so I am not sure if it is too much of an advantage against a mare of her ability
E.W. Terms