Ed Chamberlin reflects on Enable's agonising defeat at the hooves of Waldgeist in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
“I don’t want to shoot Bambi,” Andre Fabre told ITV viewers before the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Well it felt like he’d done just that – and broke the hearts of Enable’s legions of supporters - after Waldgeist powered home to deny her an unprecedented third win in the great race.
I'd imagine our studio reflected living rooms up and down the land as everyone, including Johnny Murtagh, who won the race on Sinndar, and Brough Scott, who’s seen just about every renewal of the Arc, were on their feet roaring Enable home.
This will go down as Britain's’ Orfevre moment as ecstasy turned to agony when we saw Waldgeist surging down the outside of the field.
We should start by giving the winner enormous credit. Like certain football teams he clearly likes to be playing at home and at the fourth attempt took Enable’s scalp under a fine ride from Pierre-Charles Boudot. He’s am immensely-talented jockey.
And what about the winning trainer? Fabre is a man intelligent enough to have followed his father into legal or diplomatic circles and was winning Europe’s premier race for an eighth time. An extraordinary achievement from the man known as Little Napolean.
It was a nightmare result for the French media, to whom he doesn’t speak, but he was all class in his interviews both before and after the race with our channel – as were John Gosden and Lord Grimthorpe.
They showed enormous class and bravery to front up to the camera immediately after the race. If the finish left those of us watching on feeling so flat – what must it have been like for the team behind the great mare?
Frankie Dettori was hurting. He’s worn his heart on his sleeve with Enable and been so open about his love for her in the build-up to the Arc. He’ll have been heartbroken by the result.
I asked Johnny Murtagh if Frankie showing such emotion towards the horse was a case of him getting a little older and wiser but he insisted it wasn't the case.
He pointed out in previous roles he would just turn up on the day, win the big races, and move onto the next one. Not with Enable. He’s there every morning as such a key part of the Gosden team, living every minute of her preparation as well as the races themselves. That’s why he was absolutely on the floor afterwards.
He shouldn’t have been. She’s gone down on her sword and was brave as ever. She put her heart and soul into the race but I just think a few factors were at play.
First up was the ground. Sir Anthony McCoy always says testing conditions like this are a great leveller – they just blunt speed and class.
But as I said on air, I just wonder if that wasn’t quite the real Enable this afternoon. I just questioned whether all the battles she’s been in over the years had finally taken their toll.
To my untrained eyes she was edgy before the Darley Yorkshire Oaks last time when she kicked a water bucket from one stable to the next and again looked on her toes at ParisLongchamp.
Before the race she had sweated up and you've never seen Frankie have to get low in the saddle mid-race to just push her into position – normally she glides wherever he wants to go.
At the very top level of sport it’s all about fine margins but if it was her last appearance on a racecourse, and connections pointed out the final decision is down to owner Price Khalid Abdullah, let’s celebrate her achievements.
Sunday shows just how tough is to win the very top races and for Enable to have managed to land back-to-back Arcs, and finish second in her third, is remarkable. The defeat in no way tarnishes her legacy and she will be remembered as one of the greatest mares we’ve ever seen.
I felt privileged to present such a big event on terrestrial television. We had a horse who has captured the public’s imagination running in the biggest autumn showpiece and I hope big numbers tuned in. They probably felt the heartbreak we all did as Waldgeist seized the crown in the final 50 yards but that’s the drama top level sport so often delivers.