The task of taking down superstar filly Enable and “Lionel Messi” in Sunday’s Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (2,400m) has been likened to tackling football giants Barcelona and Manchester City at the same time.
John Gosden’s four-year-old is chasing back-to-back victories in the prestigious Group One and is hot favourite to do just that, leaving master French trainer Andre Fabre, who saddles up three runners, scratching his head as he chases his eighth victory in the race.
“It is like playing Barcelona, taking on Enable. Barcelona do get beaten, but it’s like combining them with Manchester City having to take on Enable, [owner] Prince Khalid Abdullah, John Gosden and Messi – Frankie Dettori,” Fabre told Agence France-Presse.
Fabre has last year’s Hong Kong Vase runner-up Talismanic, Cloth of Stars and Waldgeist in the race and considers Waldgeist his best chance at ParisLongchamp Racecourse.
“I don’t think the ground is a problem, it was quick when he won the [Group One] Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud – he acts on any sort of ground,” Fabre said of Waldgeist, alluding to what is likely to be a firm track. “He won a Group One at two and now he’s back to his best.”
But all eyes will be on Enable and while Gosden admits her preparation has been far less than ideal, he has found positives in the four-year-old’s interrupted lead-up.
After blitzing her rivals in the prestigious Group One a year ago, Enable encountered knee troubles that kept her away from the track for 11 months.
“It’s not been an ideal year but she’s had a prep race and there is some advantage to being a fresh horse. Her draw [in gate six] is fine. She usually breaks alertly, which is important,” Gosden told Racing Post.
“She made the running last time and is versatile in regard to tactics, but I’ll leave that to her and [Dettori]. On her form of last year Enable deserves to be at the head of the market but the Arc is not the kind of race you can have a short-priced favourite in and be totally confident about the outcome.”
The five-time Group One winner returned on September 8, winning the Group Three September Stakes at Kempton to put a tough period firmly in the rear-vision mirror.
“She was getting so angry and frustrated, especially seeing other horses going out to exercise,” Gosden said. “She was only 80 per cent fit for that, 85 per cent at a push. And she’s done everything right since.”
Enable’s display at Kempton left Dettori with no doubt he’s on the right horse: “That was awesome,” he said after the race. “I wasn’t sure how fit she was but then she’s trained by a master trainer. She felt as good as ever. Bring on the Arc.”
William Haggas’ boom three-year-old filly Sea Of Class shapes as one of the biggest threats to Enable’s crown after exploding onto the scene after debuting in April this year.
Owned by the Hong Kong-based Tsui family, Sea Of Class enters the race on the back of two consecutive Group One victories – July’s Irish Oaks at The Curragh and the Yorkshire Oaks at York in August.
A Sea Of Class victory would complete a remarkable trifecta for the Tsuis, who took out the race in 1993 with Urban Sea and again with her son Sea The Stars in 2009, who sired Sea of Class.