She's back: Enable returns at last but faces tough test against Crystal Ocean
188Bet September Stakes | Group 3 | 1m4f | 3yo+ | ITV/RUK
It's been a long, long wait, but the wraps are finally coming off Enable, and while this might seem a big step down for a five-time Group 1 winner it's plainly no ordinary Group 3.
A repeat success in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has long been the priority since Enable was ruled out of the midsummer highlights and, despite her long absence, she is still vying for favouritism with Sea Of Class at around 5-1 for the Longchamp showpiece.
Connections stress this is a stepping stone rather than the be all and end all but Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, points out that she was very close to reappearing at York and since then has done two or three good bits of work, so she ought to be straight enough to do herself justice.
And while John Gosden warns she will not be given a hard race on her return from injury, he is making encouraging noises all the same.
Gosden said: "It's 11 months since she ran and as she is a filly who enjoys her training and racing it's been as difficult for her as it has for everyone else. When she saw the other horses leaving to go out on to the Heath and she couldn't go with them, she found it very frustrating."
He added: "It's great for us and it's great for racing to have her back on the track and she's been very positive in her work and enjoying it a lot. I expect her to be bubbly and effervescent and I could see her just enjoying been back at the races.
"I want to make it clear to everybody that she is coming back from an injury and, as it's her first race in 11 months, in no way will she be given a hard one. Hopefully this will put her right for the Arc."
Enable is quite capable of making her own running, as we saw last year in the Yorkshire Oaks, but Gosden has entered Weekender as a pacemaker, and pacemakers do not come much classier than the Ebor runner-up, who has since been raised to a mark of 114.
With no penalty, and so in receipt of 8lb from Crystal Ocean, she ought to take all the beating.
Can Stoute spoil the party again?
Sir Michael Stoute caused quite an upset when his Geoffrey Freer winner Shernazar beat the Derby winner Slip Anchor here in 1985, and while King George runner-up Crystal Ocean faces a tough task under his penalty he could enjoy a significant fitness advantage.
Shernazar was a four-year-old on the up, but few expected him to get the better of Slip Anchor, who had beaten the subsequent irish Derby winner Law Society by seven lengths at Epsom. However, in a race run on turf, and on Friday rather than Saturday, Shernazar scored by half a length, the pair pulling 15 lengths clear of the Derby fourth Supreme Leader, with the previous year's Oaks winner Circus Plume even further back.
Crystal Ocean, second in the St Leger last year, is also a four-year-old on the up, his Ascot second to stablemate Poet's Word marking another significant step forward on his hat-trick of Group wins at Sandown, Chester and Royal Ascot.
David Probert reckons he has "a massive chance", and he could be right. If he can give Enable 8lb here he could well end the day favourite for the Arc, for which he can currently be backed at up to 8-1.
Private duel for fourth
It's a measure of how far Cribbs Causeway has come that when she won here last June she was racing off just 62 in an ordinary handicap, and yet she lines up here with a Group 3 placing at York under her belt already, and a BHA mark of 95.
She has a much more convincing profile for the minor placings than Peak Princess, who is rated only 2lb lower following last month's handicap success at Kempton but is stepping up in distance by a whopping 5f and has never managed even a place in five races at Listed level.
Cribbs Causeway's trainer Roger Charlton said: "It was always the plan to come here once Enable was, as we thought others might not want to take her on.
"I'd love to say that we're going to make Enable pull out all the stops, but realistically we are around 20 lengths behind her and Crystal Ocean. It looks as if we are in our own little race with Peak Princess, but I hope we might win that one."
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