October 25, 2021

Enable reappears to defend title in Eclipse

Enable is on a mission to become the first horse to win the Arc three times (Coady Photography)

Kept in training for another crack at a third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), multiple European champion Enable kicks off her 2020 campaign with a title defense in Sunday’s Eclipse Stakes (G1) at Sandown.

The Juddmonte star has not raced since her Arc three-peat attempt was foiled by the late-running Waldgeist. The combination of stalking a strong pace on very soft going proved her Waterloo at ParisLongchamp, but Enable lost no luster as the runner-up. Among those in her wake were Japan, familiar foe Magical, and front runner Ghaiyyath who folded to 10th.

Although Enable could have called it a career, Prince Khalid Abdullah has sportingly given her another season of racing. She has fired fresh for the past two years, resuming from an 11-month injury layoff to coast in the 2018 September (G3), her sole prep for her Arc repeat, and again showed no rust when repelling Magical in last summer’s Eclipse.

The only uncertainty is whether trainer John Gosden can get the 6-year-old Enable as fit off the bench as her younger incarnation. If so, her staggering resume – as a two-time winner of both the Arc and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), dual classic heroine, and 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) queen – towers over the field with regular partner Frankie Dettori.

Godolphin’s Ghaiyyath has rebounded in grand style since the Oct. 6 Arc. Setting course records in both ensuing starts, the Charlie Appleby trainee romped in the Feb. 20 Dubai Millennium (G3) at about this 1 1/4-mile trip at Meydan and again ran his rivals ragged in the 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup (G1) transferred to Newmarket. Ghaiyyath’s preferred tactics are arguably better suited to the Eclipse than the Arc, but Enable is more capable of playing his game than the opponents he’s been bowling over.

Japan, another trying to reverse Arc form with Enable, aims to improve from his comeback fourth in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot. Although more was expected of the 6-4 favorite that day, the Aidan O’Brien colt could be replicating the pattern from last season when he needed a race to blow off the cobwebs. Japan’s signature win came in the 2019 Juddmonte International (G1) over Crystal Ocean, who had just been outdueled by Enable in an epic King George, so he can challenge if at his best.

Globetrotting stablemate Magic Wand threw in a clunker behind Enable in that King George, where she was torched in the pace and finished tailed off. The Galileo mare is eligible to put a better foot forward here, and she tuned up with an easy score in the June 13 Lanwades Stud (G2) at the Curragh. The key for her is for the ground to remain good. There’s some rain in the forecast but clearing ahead of Sunday. Still, Magic Wand isn’t quite at the level of Magical, who herself has yet to find a way to beat Enable. Magic Wand’s Group 1 laurel came in Australia’s Mackinnon (G1), and otherwise she’s collected a series of Grade/Group 1 placings. Unless O’Brien can conjure extra from her, a minor award is likely her ceiling. Also, as the second string, it wouldn’t be a total shock if she’s part of a Ballydoyle gambit to help Japan.

Arguably the sneakiest runner is Regal Reality. Third to Enable and Magical when on the upswing here last year, the Sir Michael Stoute charge failed to build on that effort and got himself gelded over the winter. Regal Reality wasn’t seen again until the June 18 Wolferton at Royal Ascot, and his third was pleasing considering the unsuitably soft going. The Cheveley Park homebred figures to move forward in these conditions as perhaps a forgotten horse.

Japan’s Deirdre, essentially a foreign exchange student in Newmarket, was one of the stories of 2019. The upset winner of the Nassau (G1) at Glorious Goodwood confirmed the result with a troubled fourth behind Magical and Magic Wand in the Irish Champion (G1), and a game third to Magical in a soft-ground Champion S. (G1) at Ascot. The Harbinger mare suffered a shock loss in her lone outing this term, however, denied by the unheralded Bahraini shipper Port Lions in a lucrative turf race on Saudi Cup Day.

The outsider of the seven-horse field, Bangkok, was just a nose behind Japan in the aforementioned Prince of Wales’s. Trained by Andrew Balding for the enterprising King Power, the well-bred son of Australia has the profile of one capable of better than he’s shown so far. Bangkok’s highlights include a course-and-distance win in last year’s Sandown Classic Trial (G3), a second to Japan in the King Edward VII (G2), and a victory in the Feb. 1 Winter Derby Trial in course-record time on the Lingfield Polytrack.

Post time for the Eclipse is 10:35 a.m. (ET) Sunday, with additional stakes on the undercard. Juveniles line up in the opening Dragon Stakes (8:15 a.m.), followed by Liberty Beach, Lazuli, and A’Ali squaring off in the 5-furlong Coral Charge (G3) (8:50 a.m.), and the Henry II Stakes (G3) (9:25 a.m.) featuring such stayers as Cross Counter, Spanish Mission, and Dashing Willoughby. Stay tuned after the Eclipse for the Gala Stakes (11:05 a.m.), where the Gosden duo of Global Giant and Dubai Warrior takes on Fox Chairman (from the same connections as Bangkok), Aspetar, and Andre Fabre’s shipper Magny Cours.