Frankie Dettori arrived Stateside this week knowing the tall tasks facing Enable.
A shade more than three weeks removed from her second consecutive victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in only her second start of 2018, the European superstar would be asked three primary tasks. The 4-year-old filly would race in the U.S. for the first time, take on males for the fifth time and oh yeah, that little deal about becoming the first Arc winner to duplicate French success here in the U.S.
Enable’s attempt do pull off the Arc-Breeders’ Cup Turf double predictably proved one of the top storylines all week at Churchill Downs. Dettori and John Gosden, who trains the Juddmonte Farms homebred out of his training yard in Newmarket, were frequently asked about it by members of the U.S. and overseas press.
Dettori likened it to “asking your team to win two Super Bowls in two weeks” during Breeders’ Cup Media Day.
“It’s tough, that’s why it’s never been done before,” Dettori said that day.
Three days and 12 furlongs later another never-been-done or rarely done racing feat – not unlike the so-called “Curse of Apollo” broken by eventual Triple Crown winner Justify in the Kentucky Derby – went the way of the dodo.
Enable electrified the crowd of 70,423 that turned out Saturday at Churchill, fending off fellow European filly Magical to win by three-quarters of a length to become the first winner of the Arc and Breeders’ Cup Turf. Enable, a 4-year-old English-bred daughter of Nathaniel out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Concentric, succeeded where the likes of Dancing Brave, Trempolino, Golden Horn and four others failed. She improved to 10-for-11 in the process and the $2.2 million first-place check pushed her over the $10 million earnings mark.
Thirty-five years of Breeders’ Cup history and to be the first one to do it, it’s amazing,” Dettori said walking through the tunnel to the post-race press conference. “It’s like Neil Armstrong being the first man on the moon you know? It might not be as important as that, but for me it was.”
Juddmonte, the successful multi-continent racing and breeding operation of Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, celebrated a pair of victories Saturday with Enable and Expert Eye in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Dettori rode both Juddmonte winners to give him 14 for his career. He’d won the Turf on three other occasions – Daylami in 1999, Fantastic Light in 2001 and Red Rocks in 2006. He’d also been defeated trying to pull off the Arc-Turf double, finishing second to Found aboard Golden Horn in 2015 at Keeneland.
“It’s not easy. We’re going to try to break new ground, win the Arc and the Breeders’ Cup in the same year,” Dettori said a few days before the race. “Nobody’s ever done it, so it goes to show you everything has to go right. You’ve got to have a bit of luck. She traveled well, unfortunately she can’t tell us because she can’t speak our language. She seems happy with herself, her demeanor is good. I just keep my fingers crossed for a little luck.
“My job is to put her in the right place and not mess her up. Races are races. There are no gimmes, not in the Breeders’ Cup. You’ve got to approach the race like everyone can win. I’m not going to leave any stone unturned. She’s a massive favorite and rightly so. She’s proven in Europe that she’s the best, but like said, history says it’s never been done before. You’ve got to be on you’re A-game and need a little bit of luck.”
Enable looked like she’d bring her A-game during her morning training over the turf course at Churchill.
She followed a similar routine going to the turf – which wound up saturated thanks to rain Wednesday afternoon into Thursday evening – just after it opened for training. Enable jogged with her handler alongside before breaking off for a gallop along the outer portion of the course, before jogging back the wrong way with her handler the entire length of the backstretch.
Gosden watched while walking along the outer rail on the backstretch. He watched the Turf from the frontside and wore the look of a proud trainer as Enable came back to the winner’s circle to deserving cheers from the patrons.
“She was wonderful,” Gosden said. “She had a hard race and as usual she showed enormous courage to go and win. I’m just delighted for her owner and breeder, Prince Khalid, who is such a great supporter of the Breeders’ Cup.”