Why Enable Can Succeed Where Past Arc Winners Failed in Breeders’ Cup Turf

Racing
English-bred filly Enable won her second consecutive Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 7 and will be a prohibitive favorite in the Nov. 3 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf if she starts in the race. (Eclipse Sportswire)

With the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” schedule complete for 2018, the time has come to begin sorting the contenders from the pretenders for this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

In this week’s Getting to Know feature, we focus on two-time Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable, whose connections said Tuesday that she would make the trans-Atlantic trip to compete in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.

It is a somewhat strange historical anomaly that no racehorse has even completed a sweep of the Arc de Triomphe and Breeders’ Cup Turf in the same season, although only seven attempts means it is a tiny sample size. Add in Sakhee, who won the Arc in 2001 and then ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and you have eight Arc winners who were unable to win the same year at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Found defeated Arc winner Golden Horn in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf and won the Arc de Triomphe the following year, but she could not complete the sweep when running third in the 2016 Turf.

Year - Arc Win

Arc Winner

Breeders’ Cup Result

1986

Dancing Brave

4th in Turf

1987

Trempolino

2nd in Turf

1990

Saumarez

5th in Turf

1992

Subotica

5th in Turf

2001

Sakhee

2nd in Classic

2007

Dylan Thomas

5th in Turf

2015

Golden Horn

2nd in Turf

2016

Found

3rd in Turf

Enable this year has a much different profile than the typical Arc winner. The bay, 4-year-old Nathaniel filly will be making only her third start of the year in the Breeders’ Cup.

The seven past Arc winners who tried for the Arc-Turf sweep ranged from making their sixth start of the year in the Turf (Subotica, 1992) to their 10th start in the Turf (Found, 2016). Four of the seven were making their eighth start of the year in the Turf with an average of 8.14.

Initially, I had not planned to include Sahkee in the blog because he instead went for the Arc-Classic double, but his profile is much more similar to Enable’s in that he ran twice in the summer of 2001, winning both races easily, and then romped by six lengths in the Arc. Sakhee made only his fourth start of the year in the Classic and came tantalizingly close to winning: taking the lead in the stretch before the tenacious Tiznow wore him down in the final strides to win by a nose.

That brings us back to Enable, who closed her 3-year-old season with six straight wins that included the English and Irish Oaks and the 2017 Arc de Triomphe.

After her European Horse of the Year campaign in 2017, Enable was sidelined for a few months after she was found in May to have some fluid on a knee. She did not return to the races until winning a Group 3 race on the synthetic surface at Kempton Park in September. That 3 ½-length victory set her up for a repeat bid in the Arc on Oct. 7 at Longchamp, where she held off fast-closing Sea of Class to win by a neck.

Enable became only the seventh horse to repeat in the Arc and the eighth to win Europe’s de facto weight-for-age championship twice.

But rather than serving as a crowning achievement of a long season, the Arc was Enable’s second race off an 11-month layoff, and she looked like she was tiring a bit late. I suspect she will be peaking in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in her third start off the long break, having had a nice test of endurance in the Arc.

It’s hard to fathom, but Enable might have not been 100 percent fit and she still won the Arc de Triomphe. If that’s the case and she runs even better in the Longines Turf, good luck to the opposition.

Enable is at her absolute best at the Breeders’ Cup Turf distance – 7-for-7 at about 1 ½ miles – and she’s won Group 1 races on soft, good, and firm ground.

Consider the contingent of U.S.-based horses led by Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes winner Channel Maker, Sword Dancer Stakes victor Glorious Empire, and Arlington Million winner Robert Bruce – all nice, Grade 1 winners but not exactly the 1927 Yankees of U.S. grass horses – and it could be stablemate Roaring Lion or fellow European possible Crystal Ocean who are the most serious threats to Enable.

If you are looking for a reason to take a stand against her, other than the fact that she’ll very likely be the overwhelming favorite, you won’t find much, if anything, to knock in her past performances.

Shipping to North America is always a bit of a concern, but Enable has won in England, Ireland, and France, and with the Breeders’ Cup in Louisville, Ky., there probably won’t be as significant a change in weather to adapt to, especially compared with Southern California.

Trainer John Gosden has started 33 runners in the Breeders’ Cup with four victories, but he has not won a race at the World Championships since Pounced won the Juvenile Turf in 2009.

Since 2010, he’s had 10 starters with two seconds and one third, including runner-up-up finishes with The Fugue in the 2013 Turf and Golden Horn in the 2015 Turf.

There just isn’t much not to like when evaluating Enable’s chances in the Turf. Unlike previous Arc winners, Enable should be fresh entering the Turf, she is the class of the probable field by a solid margin, and she’s in the capable hands of Gosden. Great horses have bad days in racing, but short of an uncharacteristically poor effort, Enable will be very tough to beat on Nov. 3.

Pedigree

It’s crystal clear that Enable excels at 1 ½ miles, so this pedigree section will be quick and to the point. Enable is by leading French sire Nathaniel, a son of leading European sire Galileo who was a Group 1 winner at 1 ½ miles as a 3-year-old and won a Group 1 race at 1 ¼ miles at four. Nathaniel has sired six group/graded stakes winners from his three crops age two and older, led by Enable.

Stakes winner Concentric, by breed-shaping sire Sadler’s Wells, is the dam (mother) of Enable. Concentric is one of four stakes winners produced by Group 3 winner Apogee, by Shirley Heights. Concentric’s full-sibling (same sire, same dam) is multiple group stakes winner Dance Routine, runner-up in the 2002 French Oaks and the dam of 2016 U.S. champion turf male Flintshire.

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