HORSE RACING’S comeback queen Enable joined the sport’s all-time greats by becoming just the eighth horse in history to win back-to-back renewals of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s blue riband race.
A record sixth Arc for jockey Frankie Dettori, Enable had a short neck in hand over the fast finishing Sea Of Class, trained by Skipton-born William Haggas, who had a nightmare outer draw under jockey James Doyle.
This British one-two also boosted the standing of the Yorkshire Oaks at the Ebor festival – Enable won this Group One last year en route to her first Arc while Sea Of Class was victorious this August at York.
Yet Enable’s win in the colours of owner-breeder Prince Khalid Abduallah is testament to the patience of Newmarket trainer John Gosden.
She missed most of the season with a knee injury – and then suffered a setback after her comeback win at Kempton in September.
Given the four-year-old champion’s run on the Kempton all-weather was her only race since winning last year’s Arc, it was a mighty training performance by Gosden who conceded the horse wasn’t at her brilliant best at ParisLongchamp.
Enable was always travelling strongly on the heels of the leaders and the packed grandstands roared as she hit the front. Yet she didn’t pull decisively clear, unlike 12 months ago, and Sea Of Class – dropped out last by Doyle – would have won if Europe’s richest and most sought after Flat race was a fraction further.
Gosden said: “It’s not been the preparation we wanted. I actually had a hiccup between Kempton and here with a slight temperature, so it has not been easy.
“She wasn’t at her best today. I’ve had a difficult year with her and started with a bit more hair than I have now. It’s entirely down to the filly and her guts and a lovely ride from Frankie.”
Gosden raised the possibility of Enable staying in training as a five-year-old in a bid to become the first horse to win the Arc three times. He added: “If she’s in good form there’s no reason you wouldn’t try to come again.”
As for the unnaturally tall Doyle, he was stoic after wasting down to 8st 9lb – three pounds lighter than his usual minimum racing weight – to keep the ride on Sea Of Class. “She did everything I asked and just cruised through and in another three strides we would have won,” he said.
An emotional Maureen Haggas, assistant to her husband, paid tribute to Doyle, saying: “When we got the draw, I rang my father (Lester Piggott) and said ‘oh, what do we do’? He said ‘don’t change your tactics, drop her out the back and pray’.”
Earlier Oisin Murhpy, who recorded his first Group One win at the corresponding meeting last year, landed his 10th success at the elite level when Royal Marine won the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the two-year-old colt could be a Classic contender next year - this success followed an eyecatching win at last month’s St Leger meeting at Doncaster.
Murphy was just out of luck in the Prix de l’Abbaye sprint when Yorkshire businessman Steve Parkin’s Soldier’s Call was caught late on by Mabs Cross and Gold Vibe. Trained at Darlington by Michael Dods, the last gasp win of Mabs Cross under veteran French rider Gerald Mosse provided some consolation after the horse was agonisingly beaten in York’s Nunthorpe Stakes by Bryan Smart’s Alpha Delphini who was unplaced in the rematch.