October 27, 2020

Enable’s highlight reel: Three King Georges, two Arcs, a Breeders’ Cup

Enable pictured with a jubilant Frankie Dettori after her repeat in the 2018 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com)

With Monday’s official announcement that Juddmonte’s great mare Enable has been retired, we’ll pay tribute by compiling a highlight reel.

But the John Gosden trainee won so many Group 1s – 11 in all – that even here, some editorial judgment is required to whittle it down. So here are her most memorable victories that constitute her historical legacy.

2017 Oaks at Epsom

Enable’s Group 1 debut was a smasher. Not only did she career away from a high-class, odds-on favorite in Rhododendron, but Enable set a new stakes record in the fillies’ classic. Already, the daughter of Nathaniel was stamping herself as rather more than your typical Oaks winner.

2017 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth

After a quick classic double in the Irish Oaks (G1), Enable passed her first intergenerational test with flying colors in Britain’s traditional midsummer showpiece. Outstanding older males Ulysses and Highland Reel were among those left in her wake as Enable became the first-ever Epsom-and-Irish Oaks queen to add the King George.

2017 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly

Enable’s warm-up act in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) made her odds-on to continue her path of conquest in the Arc, and she again delivered an outstanding performance. The first British-trained 3-year-old filly to win the Arc, she gave partner Frankie Dettori a record fifth win in Europe’s fall championship.

2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp

When her 4-year-old campaign was put on hold by springtime injury, Enable’s chances of scoring an Arc repeat appeared to recede. Even once she made it back in time to get in a soft prep in the September (G3) at Kempton, winning the Arc second-up – from an 11-month layoff – seemed too good to be true. But Enable was too good, and too true, to be foiled. By successfully defending her title, she became the first horse to win two Arcs on different courses, with the 2018 edition returning to ParisLongchamp.

2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs

Enable’s truncated campaign meant that she was not only fresh going into the Breeders’ Cup, but arguably poised for a peak effort third off the layoff. By repelling Aidan O’Brien’s Magical in the Turf (G1), Enable unlocked another historic achievement – as the first reigning Arc winner to win a Breeders’ Cup race.

2019 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth

Although Enable added three more Group 1s to her ledger in 2019 – including two over Magical in the Eclipse (G1) and Yorkshire Oaks, her 12th win in a row – the defining moment of her 5-year-old season was her epic King George. Prevailing over Crystal Ocean in a duel to rival the iconic Grundy-Bustino war of 1975, Enable made history as the first two-time King George winner in non-consecutive years.

Finishing a somewhat overlooked third in that King George was Waldgeist, who would thwart Enable’s three-peat in the 2019 Arc. The ever-sporting Prince Khalid Abdullah had been entitled to retire Enable for a couple of years by that point, but he wanted to give his supermare another crack at an unprecedented third Arc victory.

2020 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth

If Enable’s 6-year-old campaign turned out to be relatively anticlimactic, she did win twice, and leave us one in particular to savor. Fittingly enough, it was another historic first – and a hat trick, albeit in the King George rather than the Arc. Enable strode clear of only two rivals at Ascot, an outpaced Sovereign and a stone-bruised Japan, but her new record of three King George wins will take some beating.

We’ll never know how much the heavy going bogged Enable down in her final appearance in the Arc, or how much closer she would have finished to the victorious Sottsass in better conditions. Yet there’s some solace in the fact Enable had beaten Sottsass in last year’s Arc, much as she had previously defeated Waldgeist.

The next chapter

Gosden left a sliver of hope that Enable could possibly run once more. Although bowing out on Champions Day would have made for a nice bit of symmetry with another Juddmonte superstar – the unbeaten phenom Frankel – it wasn’t surprising that connections opted to call it a career now instead of sending out to battle again. While Frankel was two years younger when signing off in the 2012 Champion (G1), as his fall objective, Enable’s whole reason for sticking around had already come and gone.

Her summary record of 19-15-2-1, with a bankroll of more than £10.7 million (approximately $14 million), doesn’t express her series of unique historic accomplishments. It would be even more amazing if she can transmit something of her talent, enthusiasm for the job, and willful character to her progeny.

With news of her retirement came the revelation of her first suitor, Juddmonte’s brilliant Kingman. The match makes sense on paper, considering Enable’s own intense inbreeding to Sadler’s Wells forces one to look elsewhere, and the benefit of adding top miler speed to her stout profile.

If the resulting foal is a filly (see hypothetical pedigree below), surely her name must include “Queen.” That’s how Dettori has referred to his beloved Enable, and how racing fans around the world will recall her.