A Season-Long Story

It’s that stage of the season when the stage of the season becomes a big thing, her hard campaign hung around Enable’s neck as a potential anchor ahead of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

A Season-Long Story

It’s that stage of the season when the stage of the season becomes a big thing, her hard campaign hung around Enable’s neck as a potential anchor ahead of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Enable Picture:Pat Healy Photography

Even something of the style, substance and steel of the Eiffel Tower is susceptible to nature’s seasonal shifts. Encouraged by the sun, expanded by the partying particles, the Eiffel Tower increases in height by as much as 17 centimetres in the summer. It’s a titbit of trivia that’s always presented this way, rather than the other, of what goes up must come down, because come the autumn, come the cold, the Tower loses a little of its powerful presence via thermal contraction.

Enable Horseform has been the Eiffel Tower of the Flat season, dominating the European landscape, monumental in her magnificence, rousing and recognisable in equal measure, and structured in elements of style, substance and steel. But if the Tower is organically scaled down around this time of the year, can the same happen to Enable? She’s a force of nature, battling the forces of nature.

Enable is on trial in the Arc, and the critical case for the prosecution is as circumstantial as the compelling case for her defence is concrete, based on the facts and figures of her faultless campaign. It’s horsepower versus hypothesis, it’s calculation versus speculation, it’s hard evidence versus hard races, so goes the anecdotal adage that a long season is a hidden fault line ripe for an October opening. That Enable has shone the brightest is unanimous. That the summer power consumption via sun-baked solar panels might have dimmed the watts is the uncertainty, and the question.

Any study of the end-game effects of a full-on season is neither scientific nor statistically sound, due to the wide variety of factors at play, as well as the differences in motivation and methods. All the same, it’s useful to at least endeavour to put some meat on the bare bone of contention, as it’s the pivotal issue for the pivotal horse in the Arc.

We filtered down all the horses, since the year 2000, who, if not quite in the same boat as Enable, steered a similar course across the stamina-sapping sea, as high-rolling three-year-olds who had a ‘hard season’, determined by quality and quantity of races over an extended period.

Leaving aside sprinters, who play a slightly different game, there were 169 who broadly qualified as being in a comparable position to where Enable is now. Just over half, 87 to be exact, maintained their high standards to the end, 34 of them winning Group 1s on their final three-year-old start well into the autumn.

Of the 82 whose form dipped, perhaps drained by a strenuous campaign, 23 of them flopped at the Breeders’ Cup, which is obviously more layered - therefore less statistically meaningful – in the list of legitimate excuses, for the travelling, timing and, in some cases, the dirt surface.

Thinking more through the prism of Enable, there were 40 fillies amongst the examined 169, and the even-money split was much the same, with 21 of them climaxing on a high. And breaking it down by trainers offers extra encouragement for the Enablers, as the statistical story is that John Gosden plays this particular game well, much better than most, in fact. By our reckoning, since 2000, Gosden has been at the high-stakes autumn table with 13 hard-working three-year-olds, and as many as ten proved to be a big dice that kept rolling. Only Great Heavens and Masked Marvel, who both got lost in an Arc, and Rainbow View (fifth in Ladies’ Classic, on dirt, on her eighth race of the year) ended in a whimper, when everything else went out with a bang.

If that’s inspiration for Enable, then her homework might be the following five case studies, who most resemble her, in points of view, for points of order and points of reference.

QUARTER MOON (2002) More a pathfinder than a prototype, not in the same league as Enable ratings-wise but contested three Oaks (runner-up at Epsom and the Curragh) on her way to France, where she might have been over the top anyway but found the trip too short in the Opera.

SNOW FAIRY (2010) Pretty much the pin-up girl for Enable, for the most elegantly electrifying example of how to sashay down an elongated catwalk. Had a break before her end-of-year engagements (back-to-back Group 1 wins in Japan), but, like Enable, did the Oaks-Irish Oaks double amid four top-level races in the meat of the season. Third to Danedream – another Enable idol – in the following year’s Arc.

L’ANCRESSE (2003) Started her season on April 13th, a week before Enable did, and posted a personal best nine races later on October 25th, when second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. In between she ran in four classics (second in Irish Oaks), as well as the Yorkshire Oaks. A lesson in constitution, as important as class in the Arc.

ISLINGTON (2002) L’Ancresse was beaten in the aforementioned Filly & Mare Turf by the four-year-old Islington, who did plenty as a three-year-old too, off the blocks at Newbury in April and running down an Enable-related road – won Yorkshire Oaks by five lengths – to the Arc, where she raised her game again but checked in only fifth, just lacking Enable’s power-packed punch.

GOLDEN HORN (2015) Different sex, but even more in common with Enable, beyond the Gosden/Dettori axis. April reappearance: check. May trial win: check. Four full-on Group 1 performances, breaking the 130 barrier: check. Arc glory: ?

Breaking the 130 barrier on the Timeform scale, as she did in the King George, is what matters most with Enable in the Arc. Of all the factors that will determine how Enable performs at Chantilly, first and foremost is her ability, and on that measurement she’s head if not shoulders above the opposition in Paris.

That’s the long and short of it. Better to be long into the season than short on talent. Neither the statistics nor the samples point overwhelmingly one way or another as to the effects, at this stage, of a rigorous campaign, but what’s clear from what’s calculable is that John Gosden plays this hand especially well, and a Queen like Enable is a big card to play.

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