Champion trainer John Gosden is not taking anything for granted as star mare Enable takes aim at the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes (3.40pm) at Ascot this Saturday, July 27. The contest offers the winner an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Turf, which Enable captured last November at Churchill Donws.
Enable captured the 12-furlong midsummer highlight in 2017 during a glittering three-year-old campaign that saw her win five G1 races in a row, but she was unable to defend her crown last year due to injury.
The dual G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine made a successful reappearance this year in the 10-furlong G1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park on July 6, when pushed out to win by three parts of a length from old rival Magical.
Saturday offers Enable the chance to become the third two-time winner of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes and the first this century, following Dahlia (1973 & 1974) and Swain (1997 & 1998).
Speaking on the Warren Hill gallops during a press event in Newmarket this morning, Gosden said: “Enable has been in good form since Sandown. I thought she ran a lovely race there. Frankie (Dettori) had her in the correct position and she won with a bit in hand.
“She was coming off an eight-month break. She did not go for a racecourse gallop beforehand and did all of her work here in Newmarket. I would say it wasn't until we got her on a gallop she likes, the round gallop on Limekilns, that she showed her zest and old spark.
“Prior to then, she was the like the heavyweight boxer trying to get ready for a championship fight – he has been off a number of months and running the roads and being in the gym is tough mentally.
“Enable was just going through the motions, but two weeks before Sandown you saw all her passion and enthusiasm come out for racing. Suddenly, Frankie was hanging on rather than saying can we go a little faster dear. She is very assertive and knows what she wants to do. The key thing is to go with the flow and not argue with her.
“The Eclipse is close enough [to Ascot], but you are getting three weeks and hopefully that will be fine. She has just been doing routine work since Sandown. She worked on Saturday with Frankie on her. We were going to work on the grass, but we did not get enough rain so she worked on the All-Weather. She seems happy and well in the face of what will be a tall order.
“The betting industry has put her in at a price that says they don't want people to be backing her. I don't think the price is realistic of her chances (Enable is 4/6 with Ascot's official bookmaker Betfred), but I suppose they are just protecting themselves if she does win.
“Enable won the King George as a three-year-old filly getting weight, just as Taghrooda (2014) did. It is a little different when you're older and suddenly you have a Derby winner coming at you who's getting the weight, and a magnificent older horse in Crystal Ocean who ran a blinder last year and won the Prince Of Wales's Stakes well last month.
“This is no penalty kick, absolutely not. It is a really exciting race with a deep field. Obviously, Enable and Crystal Ocean set the standard and then you have the three-year-olds getting the allowances. Enable is up for it, but I just don't think it is the formality that is indicated. I see her more as even money shot against this field rather than the price she is.
“There is a weight of expectation. Enable is a great filly and a pleasure to be around. She had a very difficult year in 2018, coming back from surgery, injury and then sickness between Kempton and the Arc, and she still managed to do the job. We have had a smoother run this year and, as you saw this morning, she maintains her enthusiasm for training and racing.
“She has a great physique and a wonderful mind on her. When she came in as a yearling, the one thing that amazed me straight away was the depth of her girth and heart room. Frankie says that when she stretches in the final part of the race, he can actually feel his legs move as she gets lower and picks up. There are not that many horses he has felt that on.
“She is comfortable over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. As you saw at Sandown, she has tactical speed and that tends to help the jockey. When she won the Arc at Chantilly, it was her speed from a very tricky draw that meant she did not get boxed in.
“She is the best mile and a half filly I have trained, and what she has done has been pretty extraordinary. I admired her a lot last year, coming back the way she did. She was not at her best in the Arc, but Frankie rode a magnificent race because he knew that he did not have the petrol in the tank that he would normally have, which is why he held onto her for so long. Then when we went to America and suddenly she was coming back to her best.
“I think we probably have seen the best of her. She was good the other day and as a three-year-old. Hopefully, we can get through Ascot, then you have York and the Arc. It is a big ask for any horse, but as you saw there, right now she is proud and happy within herself.”
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