August 6, 2020

Ghaiyyath topples Enable in Eclipse

Ghaiyyath shown romping in the Feb. 20 Dubai Millennium at Meydan (Dubai Racing Club/Erika Rasmussen)

In the form of his life at present, Godolphin’s Ghaiyyath proved too strong for a returning Enable to catch in Sunday’s Eclipse Stakes (G1) at Sandown. The Charlie Appleby trainee dictated terms on the front end and stayed on too well for the valiant defending champion, who closed from farther off the pace to take second.

Although Ghaiyyath was a threat to post another wire job after course record-setting romps in the Dubai Millennium (G3) at Meydan and the rerouted Coronation Cup (G1) at Newmarket, he accomplished the Eclipse in more modulated fashion. In those two prior starts, the son of Dubawi had opened up a significant early lead, but at Sandown, he didn’t establish such a big break on the field.

Not the sharpest out of the gate, Ghaiyyath turned on the speed to overtake the quicker starters Deirdre and Japan. Then he came right back into the hands of regular rider William Buick, striding out comfortably but not overracing.

Meanwhile, Enable, who might have been expected to sit handier according to her custom, was instead biding her time behind Japan and Deirdre. Trainer John Gosden had cautioned that the supermare was now a year older than when making a victorious comeback here last summer, and required more to reach the same degree of fitness. Perhaps jockey Frankie Dettori was mindful of not giving her the harder task of chasing Ghaiyyath in her first start off the bench, with her major targets – chief among them a crack at a third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) – down the road. In any event, Enable gave the leader more rope than usual, and Ghaiyyath was not going to fritter it away.

Extending his margin on the turn, Ghaiyyath braced for challenges in the stretch. Japan loomed, and Enable ground her way forward, but neither could overtake the pacesetter. Ghaiyyath kept finding all the way to the line and pulled away again to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths. His final time of 2:04.48 for 1 1/4 miles on good-to-firm compares favorably with Enable’s 2:04.77 in similar conditions a year ago.

Enable did well to outduel Japan for second. Japan’s stablemate from Ballydoyle, Magic Wand, checked in another 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth, followed by Deirdre, Regal Reality, and Bangkok.

Gosden believes this effort will set Enable up ideally for her next title defense in the July 25 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1). Japan is likewise eligible to improve for this run, since he needed his first two races last year before peaking.

A rematch with Ghaiyyath in the 1 1/2-mile King George would be a race for the ages, but that is reportedly not likely to be his upcoming target. Interestingly, Buick believes that this 1 1/4-mile trip could be optimal. If the Godolphin brain trust agrees, the Aug. 19 Juddmonte International (G1) in that vicinity at York is the next option on the radar.

A perfect 3-for-3 this season, and 8-for-11 overall, the 5-year-old Ghaiyyath is now living up to his reputation. The €1.1 million Goffs November Foal Sale topper out of Nightime, the 2006 Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) heroine by Galileo, capped his promising juvenile season with a victory in the 2017 Autumn (G3). But he wasn’t seen again for nearly a year.

Successful in his comeback in the 2018 Prix du Prince d’Orange (G3), Ghaiyyath took another six months to resurface in the 2019 Prix d’Harcourt (G2) where he made it three in a row. Wheeling back three weeks later didn’t work as he faded to third behind Waldgeist in the Prix Ganay (G1).

Ghaiyyath was a different animal after a freshening, putting up a monstrous front-running effort in the Sept. 1 Grosser Preis von Baden (G1). That 14-length triumph propelled him to the Arc, but his take-no-prisoners style didn’t translate to a very soft ParisLongchamp, and he tired to 10th behind Waldgeist and three-peat-seeking Enable.

As Appleby has pointed out, Ghaiyyath used to need extra time to recover from his races, but the mature version bounces back more quickly. Were it not for the pandemic that canceled Dubai World Cup night, he might well have followed up his Feb. 20 Dubai Millennium romp in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). Instead, Ghaiyyath’s next port of call was the June 5 Coronation Cup, and he was positively imperious.

The Eclipse would have been a more searching test had he been harried early, rather than allowed to free wheel in his comfort zone, but such is the tactical advantage of a superior front runner. Ghaiyyath is clearly better than ever, in keeping with the pattern for Dubawi progeny that tend to excel over time. His half-sister Zhukova also peaked as a 5-year-old when crushing the 2017 Man o’ War (G1) at Belmont Park.

The Dubawi angle, combined with his running style, raises the question of whether the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) could conceivably come into the equation. While the Turf (G1) would be the logical spot if he turns up at Keeneland, the Juddmonte International is a “Win and You’re In” for the Classic. Premature discussion at this point, but it would come to the fore if he follows up in the York feature.