Mike Cattermole column: Enable one of the best in spite of Arc defeat

Enable couldn't quite last home in the Arc
Enable couldn't quite last home in the Arc

Mike Cattermole feels Enable going down on her sword in France should not detract from a magnificent career.

ENABLE UNABLE

I had suggested last week that Enable’s biggest danger to winning a record third successive Arc might have been herself and that she might be vulnerable to a late kick. However, it turned out to be old rival Waldgeist who deployed it and not Sottsass.

The admirable Waldgeist deserved a really big one but what a spoiler it was - instantly destroying the party atmosphere and anticipation that had been building up all morning and early afternoon at Paris Longchamp! Credit to the horse, though, and to the amazing Andre Fabre for notching up Arc win number eight.

So what happened to Enable? Why did she succumb to a horse she had beaten three times before – in last year’s Arc and Breeders Cup Turf and this year’s King George?

John Gosden, who could be seen walking the rain-sodden course before racing, is convinced that the very soft ground was to blame because it blunted her turn of foot and she was essentially outstayed by Waldgeist.

Watching the earlier races on the card, I noticed that the ground was not kicking up at all so it looked as though the ground may have been pretty holding.

However, the Arc time was sensational – just 2.31.97 and only about a second and a half outside standard. You just don’t get times like that on desperate ground.

The other times were slower but not that slow so maybe the ground was not as testing as we all thought.

When Enable won her first King George at Ascot back in 2017, thrashing the top class Ulysses by four and a half lengths, the ground was officially described as “good to soft”.

That made no sense as the time of the race, 2.36.22, was almost eight seconds above standard. Other times that day backs this up. It was more likely soft and ample proof that Enable was very effective on it. Indeed, it remains arguably her best ever run.

Now, there’s soft ground and soft ground and comparing from different days from different tracks and different times of the year is hardly cutting edge science. But the point is that Enable has always been capable of handling any types of ground.

It was not as if she got bogged down on Sunday, she locked onto the bridle turning into the false straight and actually quickened about two lengths clear.

The difference is that the five-year-old, perhaps battle-weary Enable couldn’t sustain it and that left her vulnerable to a finisher and this time there was one.

Take Waldgeist out of the Arc and she has won decisively enough from two very good three-year-olds, as she dug deep to see them off, with her old rival Magical comfortably held again.

It was massively disappointing that Enable wasn’t able to pull off the hat-trick but it is a hell of an ask to be there three years running and be in tip-top shape to fend off all-comers in field containing champions in their own right.

Perhaps we were expecting too much.

I had written last week that her early long-margin triumphs had been replaced by harder fought wins, which had been accompanied by a sense of lethargy at home. Indeed, even a trip to the Rowley Mile hadn’t produced a different reaction.

The conclusion I have drawn is that Enable is perhaps not quite as good as she had been at her peak. She has been racing, mostly at the highest level, for three years now and something has to give eventually.

I wonder if perhaps, deep down, Gosden had worried that it might all catch up with her on the one day when she had to be at her best?

Meanwhile, there has been talk of her racing on – either at Ascot on Saturday week or Santa Anita on November 2. Of course it would be wonderful if she went out in a blaze of glory, but I wonder if that might risk another defeat?

Remember Nijinsky? After his shock, narrow reverse in the Arc of 1970, he was turned out again in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket a couple of weeks later but even after looming up on the bridle, the brilliance had gone and he was beaten by the much inferior Lorenzaccio.

It's what can happen, even to the very best. But Enable, with 10 Group Ones, will definitely go down as one of the very best mares we have seen in modern times. In these days of the social media circus, she developed a tremendous following and will never be forgotten.

BATTAASH SUCH AN ENIGMA

Although there has been much written and spoken about Enable, what about Battaash, Britain’s other “banker” on Arc day?

To say he was a disappointment in the Abbaye was an understatement. We have been used to him not quite coming up with the goods – for whatever reason – but this was a desperate run as he was already in trouble at halfway.

Going down to the start, he had looked so calm and everything looked ready for a massive run. Don’t give me the ground again as he had blitzed them on soft at Chantilly when he won the race in 2017.

Drawn on the outside was probably not good but it still doesn’t explain why he checked out so quickly.

Perhaps there was a physical problem or his wind was causing him issues – I guess not for nothing did he get that operated on after last season. However, it has been all quiet since with nothing being offered as an explanation (as far as I know).

Sadly, any thoughts of exorcising the ghost of Dayjur at the Breeders’ Cup have been well and truly wiped out.

SIR MARK CHASES THE CES

The master of Heath House has won the Cambridgeshire three times but the second half of the autumn double, the Cesarewitch, has eluded him.

Sir Mark has two very strong contenders in Timoshenko and Land Of Oz on Saturday and it wouldn’t take much of an imagination to see them fighting out the finish.

What a training performance it was to bring back Timoshenko after a year off to land the Goodwood Handicap over two and a half miles in July. His absence since is all part of the plan.

But the only time he has raced on soft was when well held on his debut two years ago so that area is an unknown, although it is encouraging to know that Archipenko, his sire, handled the mud.

While Timoshenko has been chilling out at home, Land Of Oz has been doing it on the track and his hold-up win in the Ces Trial over the course and distance last month was undeniably impressive. And he has won on soft.

Although last in at the bottom of the handicap, he has been handed a very wide draw in 30 and that won’t be easy.

Interestingly, Luke Morris was always set to stay with Timoshenko (drawn 12) and there could be yet more improvement to come from him. He will do for me.

Frankie teaming up with Willie Mullins’ mare Buildmeupbuttercup (drawn 21), second in the Ascot Stakes in June, means she will go off a ridiculously short favourite. But she will be competitive.

Eddystone Rock (drawn 26) could go well too as he has been a revelation since stepping up to two miles and he will be held up as usual to give himself a chance. Again, soft ground is not an issue.

Coeur Blimey, at 33/1 with Sky Bet, intrigues me.

It was on soft ground at Newbury in April over this very distance when he defeated Alan King’s duo Coeur De Lion and Who Dares Wins well enough and is actually better off with them.

He had his excuses when virtually pulled up in the Queen Alexandra at Ascot when last seen and his draw (27) might have been kinder.

He is the oldest in the line-up but don’t be put off by that as this race can be won by all ages including Caracciola who was 11 when successful in 2008.


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