May 20, 2019

Will Enable be the one to snap Arc/BC Turf double jinx?

Enable's Arc preparation was interrupted by a fever after Kempton (c) APRH

Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms have won so many of the great races worldwide over the past several decades that names like Frankel, Dancing Brave, and Arrogate barely scratch the surface of the many stars that have represented the stable.

Strangely, one of the races that has so far eluded Juddmonte is the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Juddmonte color bearers have placed in the event five times, including 2014 and 2016 runner-up Flintshire and 1991-92 third-place finisher Quest for Fame, who had previously won the Epsom Derby (G1).

Juddmonte arguably took its best shot at the Turf in 1986 with Dancing Brave, who at the time was considered one of the premier all-time winners of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). However, Dancing Brave wound up a flat fourth in the Turf behind another son of Lyphard, Manila, widely considered one of the best grass runners ever produced in the U.S.

Dancing Brave was the first but by no means the last reigning Arc winner to attempt to double up in the Turf. Trempolino came within a half-length of Theatrical the very next year at Hollywood Park. The next three Arc winners to try the Turf all finished fifth, though Sakhee narrowly lost to Tiznow in a memorable 2001 Classic (G1) battle at Belmont.

In 2015, Golden Horn was widely expected to break the Arc/Turf jinx, but he also lost by a half-length, to Found, who would go on to win the 2016 Arc before finishing third in her own Arc/Turf double attempt.

On Tuesday morning, two-time Arc winner Enable was given the go-ahead to contest the Turf for Juddmonte and trainer John Gosden. Both owner and trainer are seeking to make amends in this respect. For Dancing Brave in the case of Juddmonte and Golden Horn in the case of Gosden.

Why have so many Arc winners failed to replicate their Parisian success in the Breeders’ Cup? Juddmonte racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe gave the most logical explanation to the Press Association Tuesday:

“We’re aware that no Arc winner has won the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but we’re looking for positives — most of them had had a hard, tough season by the time they got to the Breeders’ Cup.

“She certainly hasn’t had a long season, but I wouldn’t say she didn’t have a tough race in the Arc. However, she has only had two races this year, so from that point of view it gave us encouragement.

“For a lot of Arc winners it has come at the end of a long season where the Arc had been the aim, so it is slightly different for her.”

There’s no question Enable towers over the prospective Turf field in talent and accomplishment, and Grimthorpe is absolutely correct in noting her relative freshness compared with previous Arc winners. That might prove the difference.

On the other hand, it’s way too early to potentially concede the race or consider her the best multi-race “single” of the weekend. This year’s Breeders’ Cup site, Churchill Downs, has been plenty friendly to European imports, but has also been the site of humbling losses by the likes of Midday and Goldikova in recent editions held there.

There is much Breeders’ Cup history to support the contention that the unexpected can happen between the time the gates open and the finish line. Arc winners unfortunately know that all too well.