Frankie Dettori’s tactical test as Enable seeks King George hat-trick

FRANKIE Dettori will have a “blank canvas” from John Gosden when he bids to steer Enable to victory in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

Phew: Frankie Dettori after Enable's breathing King George win last year over Crystal Ocean at Ascot. Picgture: Getty Images

The brilliant mare is bidding for an unprecedented third victory in the Ascot showpiece, having destroyed her field as a three-year-old in 2017 before regaining her crown after a pulsating duel with Crystal Ocean 12 months ago.

Last night Enable’s task became slightly easier when 2019 Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, the intended mount of champion jockey Oisin Murphy, was taken out by trainer Aidan O’Brien after unsatisfactory blood results.

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However, with O’Brien still saddling the top middle distance horse Japan, and 2019 Irish Derby winner Sovereign, there’s every possibly of this turning into tactical affair between Dettori and Japan’s Ryan Moore, two of the world’s best jockeys.

Close call: Enable's battle with Crystal Ocean in last year's King George was, arguably, the race of 2019. Picture: PA

And the aforementioned Gosden has been in racing long enough to realise nothing can be taken for granted – especially in small field races – and he will not be imposing instructions on Dettori for this historic Group One mile and a half race first staged in 1951.

He said: “Frankie likes to train them as well as me. I think it would be a dangerous thing if I tried to ride her – we might have a problem with the weights!

“Enable can make the running or you can put her in the middle or at the back – you can put her wherever you want her. We’ll leave that up to Frankie.

“In a race of this nature, with a small field, it’s going to be tactical. You go in there with a blank canvas – you do not, under any circumstances, say ‘we’re going to do this’. Let’s see how it pans out and see what the Ballydoyle horses do.

Hat-trick bid: Frankie Dettori and John Gosden are expecting a tactical battle when Enable seeks a third King George win at Ascot. Picture: Getty Images

“It will be tactically fascinating. We always have a plan in a race, but quite often you go to Plan B, which is a blank canvas. In this one, it’s a blank canvas at Plan A.

“I don’t see anything too sinister ahead. The horses up against us are ridden by gentlemen who ride for me a lot, too.”

Gosden admits the lack of runners from other yards is a blow to the race – and hopes it is mainly a result of the delayed start to the season because of the coronavirus pandemic, rather than a wider issue.

He said: “I think we’ve walked into a freakish year. It’s disappointing that other stables from England, Ireland, France and Germany can’t produce horses for the race, but the horses just aren’t there.

“Is it the breeding programme, is it the fact that some owner-breeders aren’t there any more, is it because there is too much emphasis on breeding for commercial speed? These are questions we could debate for hours. You’ve had April and May disappear on us, because of this hideous disease, and consequently the three-year-olds weren’t able to develop through those races and be battle-hardened.

“Aidan won both the Derby and the Oaks (with Serpentine and Love), so it was his choice if he wanted to bring one of those to the King George, and he’s decided to stick with the older brigade. I think next year will be different, but there is now a bit of an addiction to breeding for commercial speed – and I think we must be very careful that we don’t start losing middle-distance races, because they are essential.”

Enable delighted her connections when finishing second to Ghaiyyath in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown three weeks ago. Gosden stopped short of saying Prince Khalid Abdullah’s superstar mare is as good as she has ever been, but is delighted with her condition.

“I see Enable as maybe not quite at her peak, but she has trained beautifully coming into this – the Eclipse put her right,” he added.

With both trainers bidding to win the King George for a fifth time, Japan is seemingly O’Brien’s first string.

Last year’s King Edward VII Stakes, Grand Prix de Paris and Juddmonte International winner was disappointing on his first start of 2020 at Royal Ascot, but was only a head behind Enable at Sandown.

Meanwhile Sovereign will require a career-best to trouble the top two, but it is never wise to rule out anything O’Brien trains.

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