Enable will bid on Sunday to achieve what her Italian jockey Frankie Dettori labels the “impossible” and become the first horse to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three times.
Only eight horses have won the race twice and few have attempted to win it three times. The last one to try before Enable last year was Treve, who finished fourth in 2015.
If successful in defying her 14 rivals at Longchamp racecourse, the John Gosden-trained superstar will be the first six-year-old to win the marquee race.
Sadly, if history is made it will only be witnessed by 1,000 spectators due to coronavirus restrictions. Four of Enable’s opponents will come from the Aidan O’Brien stable, though the heavy rain in Paris has ruled out Love, his formidable Epsom Oaks winner, who was vying with Enable for favouritism.
Dettori admits no other horse has taken him to such emotional highs in his extraordinary career. The 49-year-old decided that Enable still had the class to go for the Arc after she won a record third King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July.
“We have to try the impossible and go for three Arcs,” he said.
Dettori knows this is the last roll of the dice for him and his “favourite girl” and hopes it ends happily, unlike last year, when Waldgeist denied her victory.
“Last year’s Arc day was the longest two hours of my riding career, make no mistake,” he said. “I had the disappointment of the Arc but unfortunately that was only the third race on the card and I had rides in the following races. It felt like a very long afternoon.”
Gosden says Enable is a “phenomenal athlete” but he believes her mental strength could prove to be more important. She refuses to crack even when trailing.
Gosden, who with Dettori is bidding for a fourth win in the Arc in six runnings, says the unknown factor is whether her finishing speed has been blunted.
“Enable will be running in her fourth Arc, which is remarkable really,” said Gosden. “Like those old boxers, she has taken a while to get up to full fitness at training camp and it depends if they’ve lost any of their old speed.”
Gosden is not worried about the ground for Enable but that is a factor for his other entrant, the legendary stayer Stradivarius.
The three-time Ascot Gold Cup winner, also six years old, will be ridden by Frenchman Olivier Peslier, who has won the race four times.
“[Stradivarius] is battle-hardened, he has maturity on his side and he knows his own mind,” Gosden said. “He just would not like bottomless ground.”
O’Brien’s best hopes of winning a third Arc probably lie with Mogul and his shock Epsom Derby winner Serpentine.
Mogul is the chosen ride of his stable jockey Ryan Moore after they won the Group One Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp last month, with Serpentine fourth.
However, the 50-year-old Irishman saw enough in Serpentine’s performance to give him confidence.
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“At this stage we don’t know how the ground will be exactly but hopefully he will be OK,” said O’Brien.
Of the home contenders, Francis-Henry Graffard’s German Derby winner In Swoop and the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Raabihah look the likeliest to pose a threat to the Gosden and O’Brien camps.
Japan dreams of winning the race but the form this season of their one runner Deirdre suggests their wait will go on.
For a sport facing tough times due to the financial impact of the pandemic, a victory for Enable would be a shot in the arm.
“We really need to cherish these special horses,” said Dettori.
On Sunday the racing world will get to do so one more time.