By Frankie Dettori’s standards there was a definite sense of restraint about the celebrations after Enable had given him a record-breaking fifth success in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday. There was a kiss blown to the crowd and, of course, the flying dismount but none of the adrenaline-fuelled, let-it-rip jubilation that followed his Derby success on Golden Horn two years ago.
Perhaps it was just too easy, too routine almost, to get Dettori’s blood pumping. “It was too perfect,” he said afterwards. “Unbelievable. I’m thinking, is this real or am I dreaming? It happened exactly like I thought and she won like I thought. Usually in an Arc something happens but it was so smooth, so effortless.”
If there was a moment when Dettori made the difference, it came early, as he tried to work his way into an ideal position to cruise round Chantilly’s right-handed turns and then pounce in the home straight. Like everything else in his fifth Arc, the manoeuvre was seamless.
“I’d said to John [Gosden, Enable’s trainer] that basically I’ve got 400 metres [two furlongs] to find out what’s going to happen. If I have to, I’ll have to make the running but then I saw Idaho running free and so I let him slot in. Then I could see Order Of St George creeping on to my quarters, so I checked behind, managed to drag her back and get behind Order Of St George.
“At that moment, job done. I was exactly where I wanted her, I had free air on my left and she was running away on the turn. I thought that at York [in August, when Enable won the Yorkshire Oaks] I went a bit too early, so [in the straight] I thought, count to 10, wait to the 400. She gave me that burst of three or four lengths and then sustained it and I was just counting down the markers.”
Enable carried the same colours here as Dancing Brave, who won the Arc for her owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah, back in 1986, but the contrast with his charging run past most of the field could not have been more complete.
Rarely has an Arc been won with so little fuss or drama and Dettori is in no doubt that Enable is the best filly he has ridden in his three decades in the saddle. Cloth Of Stars stayed on to finish two and a half lengths behind her for André Fabre – the first and only French-trained horse to make the frame in the two Arcs staged at Chantilly – while Ulysses, twice a Group One winner at 10 furlongs this season, was a creditable third. But Enable’s domination of 17 rivals was complete.
Dettori’s status as the most successful jockey in Arc history is now absolute as well. “I’m the first to five and it’s a great achievement but I’ve had 29 goes at it,” he said, “so maybe five is not such a great strike-rate.
“Every one has been special but, when you ride a 4-5 favourite in the Arc, even I was nervous. But if you don’t get nervous, you’re not human.”
Gosden, who waited decades for an Arc winner but has now won the race twice in three years, said that his jockey had made “one brilliant manoeuvre early on to give her a perfect shot at the race”, and senses that Enable has probably run her last race as a three-year-old and possibly of her career.
“To me she’s done everything you could ask of her this year,” Gosden said. “She’s really only had one very busy season so there’s a possibility she might stay in training next year and go to the new Longchamp. She’s truly exceptional, straight out of the top drawer. Golden Horn was a wonderful horse and I find it hard to compare, but it’s fantastic, normally the buses don’t come along too often like that on the rainy days. We’ll see whether she races next year. We’ll have to talk to Prince Khalid.”
Treve, in 2013 and 2014, showed that it is possible for a filly to return to the Arc as a four-year-old and win, and Enable is quoted at around 5-2 by one bookmaker to win for a second time next year. Workforce, the most recent of Prince Khalid’s five Arc winners prior to Enable’s success, remained in training, but Dancing Brave, Rail Link and Rainbow Quest all went to stud and the owner is well-known for taking as much pleasure from breeding thoroughbreds as racing them.
If Enable is in the field next October, the first Arc at the new Longchamp will be one to savour. If her racing days are over, she will retire as one of the most talented middle-distance fillies for decades, and an Arc winner who did it all so easily that Frankie Dettori had time to wonder if it was all a dream.
O’Brien on course to eclipse Frankel’s all-time record
After his 1-2-3 in 2016, Aidan O’Brien’s five-strong team could not find even a place in the frame in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but the trainer added two more Group One victories on the Chantilly undercard to his double at Newmarket on Saturday and moved to 22 for the season, within sight of Bobby Frankel’s all-time record of 25.
O’Brien’s 21st Group One was the result of an unusual decision for the stable, sending the filly Happily up against colts in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
The obvious race for her was the Prix Marcel Boussac, in which her stable companion Magical finished fourth behind Wild Illusion, but the switch to face the colts with a 4lb allowance proved inspired, as Happily stayed on strongly to win by a length-and-a-quarter.
O’Brien himself remains reluctant to talk about Frankel’s record, never mind admit that it might be a target, and credited “the lads” in the Coolmore Stud syndicate which owns his horses for the decision to target the Lagardere.
“It was a brave call,” O’Brien said. “She’s a tough, hardy filly and is a sister to [the 2015 2,000 Guineas winner] Gleneagles. She showed she got the mile well, so we think the [Juvenile] fillies’ race [at the Breeders’ Cup] could suit her.”
Happily has now won Group One races at seven furlongs and a mile and looks an obvious contender for next year’s Oaks, for which she is top-priced at 7-1.
The Prix de l’Opera was in the bag for Ballydoyle from some way out as his two runners, Rhododendron and Hydrangea, started to draw clear of their field, but it was only in the final strides that Rhododendron, the runner-up behind Enable in the Oaks at Epsom, managed to get the better of her stablemate.
“Rhododendron is a very special filly,” O’Brien said, “to do what she did after what happened to her in the [Prix de] Diane [where she was pulled up with a broken blood vessel].
“The bad day she had the last time she came here stopped her for six weeks and the lads did a great job to get her back. She’s all class and we thought she would win the Oaks, only for her to run into Enable.”
Twenty-six Group One wins in a season is such a remarkable total that even after adding two more to his haul at Newmarket on Saturday, O’Brien was still a 4-5 chance to reach it.
The Irish trainer’s latest double was enough to shrink the odds dramatically, however, and he is now as short as 1-8 with Paddy Power, and 1-4 with William Hill to reach the target. Champions Day at Ascot in three weeks offers several chances to edge closer, but the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in early November would be a more likely, and appropriate, stage for O’Brien to make history.
All six of the Group One events on the card at Chantilly were won by horses from British or Irish stables, and Battaash, from the Charlie Hills yard, and Martyn Meade’s Aclaim completed the rout of the home contingent in the Prix de l’Abbaye and Prix de la Foret respectively.
Battaash finished well beaten behind Marsha in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York after boiling over in the preliminaries, but he was much more relaxed this time and never looked like being headed after a fast start. Marsha was four lengths adrift in second at the line and Battaash, on his day, looks like the best sprinter in Europe by some margin.
The Turf Sprint at the Breeders’ Cup is likely to be his next assignment – he is 11-4 from 8-1 with Paddy Power – but Aclaim may have run his last race after giving Meade his first Group One winner.
“He’s a tough little horse,” Meade said. “He tries so hard that he reduces me to tears. He’s won a Group One and it’s job done.”