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Enable is back

Sunday Times Sport, 7 July 2019

Delight is a delicious feeling. That’s what we got when superstar filly Enable came back from a 245-day break to dominate this Eclipse Stakes under Frankie Dettori who rewarded her with kisses, a flying dismount and the statement that “she’s the best I have ever ridden.”

Watching a five-year-old mare run around one and a quarter miles of grass faster than seven other horses might not sound something that could really lift the spirit. But this is the best of a breed that goes back two centuries winning a race first run in 1886 and, much more than that, this now is one of the most consummate athletes on the planet. Close up you can see that this is an ultimate running machine.

Beforehand there were reasons to doubt her. She had not run since winning the mile and a half Breeders Cup Turf last October by less than a length from the Irish filly Magical who has had four runs and three victories this season. Enable’s only defeat in 11 runs had been over this shorter mile and a quarter trip and here was Magical in opposition again and fairly gleaming with health and fitness as Aidan O’Brien carefully laid the final brush on her satin skin. Dettori and trainer John Gosden had said that Enable had been working brilliantly but they would say that wouldn’t they? Then Enable appeared and it’s no hindsight to say that she fairly took the breath away.

For while Enable had more meat on her than Magical and was apparently still several kilos over her Arc winning racing weight, this was an athlete who knew she was in her prime. It is easy to fantasise these things, but the really great racehorses impress you at the walk. Little Mill Reef was the most perfect mover I ever saw and his walk was perfect. Frankel was not that tall but he stalked the paddock like a tiger. Enable had a lot of stalk about her as she strode round the ring, ears pricked, neck curved, chest deep, hindquarters brimming with power. 85% she may have been, but she was ready to run.

Not all the others seemed so enthusiastic as the erratic Regal Reality went mulish when he got on the track and had to make the whole reverse mile and a quarter to get to the start, and then dropped in at the back of the field when the stalls opened. Up front Hunting Horn set the gallop for his stable mate Magical with Enable and Dettori immediately alongside them.

The aim was to stretch Enable but it stretched the others more. Three furlongs out Hunting Horn had all but Enable in trouble and two furlongs out Dettori committed his mare for the line and dared the others to catch him. Ryan Moore drove Magical furiously and Kerrin McEvoy got a good run out of Regal Reality to be third, but Magical head was up with the strain whilst Enable’s neck was set straight and true. At 48, Dettori is now 33 years a jockey but these are the days he lives for, and two other brilliantly executed winners on the day showed that these sunset years rank right amongst his best.

They have been immeasurably assisted by his renewed association with John Gosden who understands his jockey as well as he does his horses, and whose judgement was so royally rewarded by Enable’s condition yesterday. If this was 85% as the trainer lucidly insisted, we have the prospect of more delights in the King George at Ascot followed by the Yorkshire Oak and then a trip to Longchamp bidding to become the first horse ever to win a third Arc de Triomphe. I have seen some great fillies from Petite Etoile to Goldikova and Treve but agree with Dettori that her CV beats them all.

“Today was an eight and a half out of ten,” said the winning jockey, “but there’s plenty more to come. She’s amazing and I love her so much. She’s a dream to ride.”

And for us to watch.