November 30, 2020

Waldgeist foils Enable in Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

Waldgeist dethrones Enable in the 2019 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com)

Going into Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), the question was whether anyone could deny Enable an unprecedented three-peat. The answer was furnished by another legend, the Arc’s all-time leading trainer Andre Fabre, whose Waldgeist ran the race of his life to topple the hot favorite at ParisLongchamp.

Waldgeist had succumbed to Enable in their three previous jousts. If his fourth in the 2018 Arc could be chalked up to a troubled passage, and his distant fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) was plainly subpar, the son of Galileo still had to bridge the gap from his third to the superstar in the July 27 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot. Waldgeist tuned up in similar fashion, scoring a repeat in his Arc trial in the September 15 Prix Foy (G2), but Fabre stated that the five-year-old was better than last year. His judgment proved spot-on.

Enable appeared to be working out a winning trip on the very soft ground. The free-running Ghaiyyath made much of the early running, tracked by Magical. Enable, reserved off the pace by Frankie Dettori, advanced to draft behind the leaders by the time they reached the false straight. Sottsass followed her, and Waldgeist was perched in his wake.

Magical took command in the homestretch, but her nemesis Enable was traveling the better. As the two-time defending champion swept to the fore, she had victory within her grasp. Magical could not go on, and although Sottsass and fellow sophomore Japan loomed wider out, neither was able to pose an effective challenge.

Waldgeist then played his hand under a well-judged ride by Pierre-Charles Boudot. Angling out around Japan to find daylight, he surged past Enable to win going away by 1 3/4 lengths and negotiated about 1 1/2 miles in 2:31.97.

Fabre’s eighth career Arc triumph furthered his place in the record book. His most recent success came courtesy of Rail Link, a Juddmonte homebred like Enable, in 2006. That victory also represented the overturning of a beloved favorite, Japan’s Deep Impact.

In postrace comments to france-galop.com, Fabre expressed both his faith in Waldgeist and his concern about the state of the ground:

“I’ve immense admiration and respect for Enable but am also very proud of Waldgeist. I really liked the way he raced at Ascot (in the King George). He was beaten on that occasion but he ran very well and he didn’t have a hard race. He had a break after that. Pierre Charles (Boudot) was similarly delighted by the horse’s effort and trumpeted ‘we’re going to win the Arc.’ He was very confident.

“The horse’s preparation went very well and he was in very good condition coming into the race. He has continued to strengthen up and has become more mature. Waldgeist is a calm horse and straight forward to train.

“I must confess that I was very worried in the lead-up to the race on account of the rains and, in the Prix Ganay, when the going was good, he floated over the ground. However, he did win on a heavy track as a juvenile and has won on all types of ground.”

Boudot was overjoyed by his first coup in the Arc:

“To win the Arc is just a wonderful feeling. Waldgeist is a horse of a lifetime as far as I’m concerned and I’m happy to say that it rung true today, particularly as he showed tremendous heart. We had a lot of respect for Enable, but today she was simply beaten by a better horse on the day. It’s all a little crazy right and I can die happy right now.”

Enable’s trainer, John Gosden, surmised that the ground was the key factor in snapping her 12-race winning streak:

“The mare has run very well but, on a heavy track, she wasn’t unable to unleash her deadly turn of foot, which she would otherwise have been able to do on a soft or very soft track. Waldgeist beat us by virtue of a strong finish, and tapping into his stamina, but you can’t fault Enable.”

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, was gracious in defeat:

“She ran a blinder in this ground and we couldn’t have asked any more of her. Enable has become a real icon. She is held in deep affection by many people, and the public at large. The Prince will decide her future. At this moment in time, we are counting our blessings that a mare of such quality has come into our lives. She is something else.

“The Prince will take his time before deciding which path to take with her. The expectation levels coming into the race were simply huge and it’s great that so much positive energy has accompanied her on this particular journey. We hadn’t expected to get beaten but it wouldn’t be right to grumble about her performance.”

Even without a three-peat, Enable compiled a resume of historic proportions. And by finishing second here, she outstripped the only other two-time winner in line for a third – Treve, who was fourth in her three-peat attempt in 2015. It would be no surprise if the Arc turns out to be Enable’s swan song.

But there remains more to come next season from third-placer Sottsass. Fourth Japan and fifth Magical could be seen again this fall, according to their trainer Aidan O’Brien. The supplemented Soft Light, a stablemate of Sottsass from the Jean-Claude Rouget yard, exceeded expectations in sixth. Kiseki fared best of the Japanese hopes in seventh. Nagano Gold, French King, Ghaiyyath, and the remaining Japanese runners, Blast Onepiece and Fierement, completed the order of finish.

Waldgeist, campaigned by co-breeders Gestut Ammerland and Newsells Park Stud, sports a mark of 21-9-3-3. Hero of the 2016 Criterium de Saint-Cloud (G1), he just missed in the 2017 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1) and finished fourth in the Irish Derby (G1). An ensuing back injury blighted the remainder of his sophomore season, but he came roaring back in 2018 with a four-race winning spree highlighted by the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1). After his Arc and Breeders’ Cup disappointments, he was a troubled fifth in the Hong Kong Vase (G1).

Better than ever in his 2019 debut in the Prix Ganay (G1), Waldgeist wasn’t as effective in his forays to Great Britain. He stayed on for third in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot en route to a similar finish in the King George, and a change of venue back to ParisLongchamp brought out the best in him.

With the Arc being a “Win and You’re In,” Waldgeist earned a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. But now that he’s reached the pinnacle of European racing, connections must be tempted to retire him on a high note.

Andreas Jacobs of Newsells Park, stud home of Enable’s sire Nathaniel, was delighted to see Waldgeist’s German family achieve another plaudit:

“It’s a feeling comparable to the day when I got married! When it comes to breeding horses you don’t always need to follow the latest trends. At our stud, we prize those renowned and stamina-endowed German lines. We used those criteria when it came to standing our stallion Nathaniel.”

Waldgeist is a three-quarter brother to Group 2 scorer Waldlied (by New Approach). Their dam, the Group 3-winning Monsun mare Waldlerche, is herself a half to 2010 St Leger (G1) winner Masked Marvel and to the dam of current multiple Group 3-placed juvenile Al Dabaran. Waldgeist’s third dam is German highweight Wurftaube, responsible for 2011 Deutsches Derby (G1) victor Waldpark.

In considering the future, Gestut Ammerland’s Dietrich von Boetticher realizes the effort Waldgeist put forth on Sunday:

“I hadn’t expected to beat Enable or bargained for the way the horse picked up in the straight. As for what happens next, I don’t wish to make a decision before consulting with André Fabre first. We will do what is right by the horse. They aren’t machines but living creatures.”