By the end of 2017, Enable firmly held both the title of racing darling and European Horse of the Year. As a result, anticipation is high for the champion's return to racing and a possible defense of her Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) crown, which is far different from the expectations the Juddmonte Farm's homebred faced this time last year.
“To do what she did was really extra special,” said Lord Teddy Grimthorpe, Juddmonte's racing manager. “I think the great thing about her is the way she took her racing, which is so important.
“It's a great attribute to not only have the talent but to also have that strength and soundness to take you through from race to race just as you would want and to handle it well.”
At the start of last year, however, not even her connections were imagining such lofty heights for the bay filly.
“She was always nice, but she was a little unfurnished as a young horse,” Grimthorpe said. “As a 2-year-old, she won her maiden in her first start literally at the end of November. We started thinking nice races, but not the big, big ones.”
As a member of Nathaniel's first crop, there was no historical measure to gauge how she might progress. Given the winter off by trainer John Gosden, though, Enable grew into herself.
“She did well over that winter, and physically she did extremely well,” said Grimthorpe. “When she started to work again in the spring, we were hopeful of a 1 ¼ or 1 ½ mile campaign.”
After finishing third behind stablemate Shutter Speed in her seasonal debut, Enable notched the second victory of her career in the Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks, where she defeated Coolmore's Alluringly by 1 ¾ lengths. It was then those at Juddmonte began elevating expectations.
“When she won the Cheshire Oaks, we knew we had something quite decent then, mainly because the O'Brien camp was second,” said Grimthorpe. “They were a bit disappointed, so I thought that was encouraging. From then on it was incremental improvements and excitement.”
After the Cheshire Oaks, Enable took the Investec Oaks (G1), Darley Irish Oaks (G1), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1), Darley Yorkshire Oaks (G1), and Arc in succession. She won the six races by a combined 24 ¼ lengths over a variety of ground.
Enable went to be named a champion, and the Arc was named the 2017 Longines World's Best Horse Race.
“With all horses, there's always going to be a chance of some sort of problem at some point along the line, but with her it was very straightforward,” said Grimthorpe. “Her preparation was always right on schedule for where John wanted her to be.
“She's also quite versatile in terms of ground. It is important she's a nice striding filly. I don't think she would want extremes either way, but hopefully she won't ever get that.”
After considering several options following the Arc, Prince Khalid did not take long to decide that Enable would have a 4-year-old season.
“There are always several factors in that,” said Grimthorpe. “One was the horse herself. How has she come out of the race? Is she in good form? And two, obviously, is what Prince Khalid would like to do, and he likes to race his horses.
“She only had one race as a 2-year-old, so from that point of view there was a huge temptation as well. With good fillies, it is a slightly easier decision in terms of the fact you are only losing one foal. With colts, of course, there is a huge commercial decision.”
Like she did the year before, Enable has stayed with her trainer during her break and is scheduled to resume significant training in February.
“She's remained with John all winter, just ticking over and doing very light things,” said Grimthorpe. “She came back well from the Arc, and she is happy there, so there was no reason to send her to the farm. She just returned to steady canters as of Tuesday.”
According to Grimthorpe, Enable's schedule for 2018 will focus on a return trip to the Arc, while defending her title in the King George is also under serious consideration. Another race that is being given a great deal of thought is the Juddmonte International Stakes (G1). As a result, her early season program will be geared toward making those races.
As for Enable's dam, Concentric, she is revisiting Nathaniel this season in hopes of a full sibling to the champion.
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