For some, perhaps many, punters and racegoers, Prince Khalid Abdullah’s decision to race on with Enable in search of an unprecedented third success in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which was announced on Monday morning, will seem like one of the easiest imaginable. Who would not want to see her on the track as a mature five-year-old mare, taking on old foes like Sea Of Class and fresh ones from a 2018 juvenile crop that looked distinctly above-average? With one historic achievement already secured with victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, why stop there?
But decisions like this can always look straightforward when it is not your money and you have nothing to lose. In truth, it is a very sporting decision by an owner who has always seemed to take as much pleasure from breeding as he has from racing, and there are some good reasons why Prince Khalid could have chosen to stick rather than gamble on another season on the track.
Because it is, without doubt, a gamble, even with a horse that has won nine races in a row since May 2017, seven of which were at the highest level.
What is certainly at stake is the chance to have one of the few, precious foals that Enable will – hopefully – bear once she retires, skipping around a paddock in little more than a year. And slight though it is, the risk of a serious injury is always there every time a horse goes to the track. For Enable’s owner, the concern that his Juddmonte operation might never breed from her at all would be a difficult one to even contemplate, not least when she has already achieved so much.
Dual Arc winners are such a rarity that most – including Ribot, Alleged and Tantieme, three of the five since World War Two – have been retired to stud pretty much on the spot. Treve, who was the seventh dual winner but also the first for 36 years when she won in 2014, was the first to even attempt a third success when she came up a little short behind Golden Horn, John Gosden’s first Arc winner, in 2015.
Enable has now improved Gosden’s strike-rate in the Arc to three of the last four, but the historic third victory for Enable that presumably tipped the balance in favour of another season in training is still a long way off, and not even all that likely if the bookmakers are correct.
Enable can be backed at 4-1 to win on 6 October next year, and while the chance that she will not make it to Paris is factored into the price, she could also arrive in good form with her winning streak intact but draw stall 20 versus an above-average Derby winner near the rail. If so, she is unlikely to be a great deal shorter on the day.
Sea Of Class, after all, might well have beaten Enable this year had the two fillies’ stall positions been reversed, and Sea Of Class has a little more scope for improvement than the rival who beat her by just a short nose last month.
The possibility of a rematch was the first thought on many punters’ minds after an unforgettable head-to-head between the two fillies last month. If it has not yet quite moved from possibility to probability, it will still be a prospect that drives the 2019 Flat season from the start, as potential three-year-old challengers to the pair make themselves known in the Classics.
The Arc’s return to Longchamp was a triumph on the track and a thorough PR disaster on the other side of the rails, as spectators complained about long queues for everything from the toilets to the betting windows, and a shortage of food and drink when they finally reached the front.
There were some fans who left Longchamp vowing never to return. Thanks to Prince Khalid, however, the 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe already promises to be a race that will test their resolve to the limit.