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She’s heading to Paris to make history, but she’s not a fashion model or a top chef.
Enable is a superstar racehorse bidding to win Sunday’s prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for an unprecedented third straight time.
To clinch Europe’s richest race once is career-defining, but three wins in the showpiece classic would elevate Enable to legendary status.
Such is her physiology and athletic prowess, jockey Frankie Dettori says, “When she takes a breath during a race I can feel my legs moving.”
A bumper first prize of more than $3.1 million would also be a lucrative payday for Dettori and trainer John Gosden — who says it’s “the race we all want to win” — but for them the appeal of the Arc and Enable adds up to far more than zeros on a cheque.
The 48-year-old Dettori is one of the sport’s biggest names, with a wealth of famous wins, including a record six Arc titles. But of all the great horses he has ridden in a glittering career, it is Enable that stirs him the most.
“It goes without saying I love horses, but she’s taken me emotionally to places no other horse has taken me,” said the Italian, talking to Aly Vance for CNN’s Winning Post after a morning gallop on Enable at Gosden’s Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket, England.
“We’ve won most of the big races in Europe and America and experienced some great times together so she’s very close to my heart. She’s never let me down. The euphoria of winning together has been special.”
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‘Great mental strength’
Enable is a five-year-old bay mare bred by Saudi royal Khalid bin Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms stud as one of the first crop of foals from stallion Nathaniel, a standout champion in his racing career.
After becoming only the eighth horse since the Arc’s inception in 1920 to win a second title last year, Enable and Dettori went to the US and clinched the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs to continue a remarkable story.
She’s won all three of her outings this year — all Group 1 races — and has amassed nearly $12 million in prize money.
According to Dettori, she operates in third gear at home but she “puffs up” and the “lights come on” when she hits the race course.
“Mentally, she’s very strong,” said the veteran rider ahead of Sunday’s showdown at Longchamp. “When she gets to the race course it’s like a switch — she’s on, she’s ready to go. [But] she can also fight, she’s got everything you wish in a great horse.”
The 68-year-old Gosden, who has trained more than 3,000 winners in an illustrious career, says Enable’s competitive streak is one of her biggest assets.
“She has to be in first lot [training group], if you make her wait she’ll start digging the bedding up in her box and stamp her feet, she’s very competitive, she likes to train and she likes to race,” Gosden told Vance on the gallops above Newmarket on a sunny September day.
“Some days she just quietly goes through the motions and other days she’ll show a lot of spark — very much like us, it depends on what mood she’s in, but she certainly wants to please.”
He added: “Obviously she has the physiology — great depth, great heart room that is, the girth below where the saddle goes, the whole cardiovascular system and the lungs — and she has a wonderful stride on her and just this great mental strength,”
“In a couple of her races she’ll just look at the other horses as if to say, ‘OK, you think you can go by me? You’re not.'”
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In 2017, Enable scored emphatic victories in the Oaks, the Irish Oaks, and the King George before clinching her first Arc at Chantilly, north of Paris, when Longchamp was undergoing redevelopment.
But Gosden says in the intervening years she has become “a little cleverer and smarter in her racing.”
She’s narrowly beaten the Aidan O’Brien-trained Magical three times in her last four races, alongside a gritty victory by just a neck over Crystal Ocean in the King George at Ascot in July.
“When she was youthful and exuberant she’d burst four or five lengths clear, but now she’s rather like the old cagey boxer who knows how to win it on points rather than go for an elaborate knockout. She has that mental fortitude which is very important,” added Gosden.
The groom who looks after her and rides her on a daily basis is the 34-year-old Imran Shawani, who followed his older brother Anwar from Karachi, Pakistan 14 years ago to work for Gosden, with barely any English and no riding experience.
“The boss [Gosden], he’s a gentleman, he’s always looked after me very well. He was paying me full wages and at that time I was absolutely useless. That’s the truth,” Shawani told CNN over the phone after finishing a day’s work at Clarehaven.
“The boss said, ‘Oh my God, you need to learn a lot.’ He used to teach me riding for one hour every day after third lot on the pony. He taught me how to hold the reins, how to go up and down when the horse trots and how to stand on a horse when they canter. I was always doing some mistakes but the boss always ignore, and he gave me lots of chances.
“I was an absolutely s**t rider.”
Another brother Afzal rode Enable’s father Nathaniel, but when Imran chose her to look after, little did he know she would go on to become a wonder horse.
“She’s beautiful, she knows she’s a superstar,” he added. “If you take her on Warren Hill [Newmarket’s gallops], she wants to show off she’s Enable. She’s so special for everyone and if you give her a Polo mint or a carrot she’s going to be your friend.
“I think I am the luckiest person in the yard and in Newmarket.”
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‘A big ask’
Enable will face 11 rivals in the mile-and-a-half-test of speed and stamina at leafy Longchamp in the Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of Paris.
Among the challengers are Magical, multiple Group 1 winner Waldgeist, and O’Brien’s Japan.
“It’s a big ask to have them in peak condition year on year,” added Gosden. “One thing you never get in this business is overconfident.
“When you’re dealing with horses, anything can happen at any stage, just like a football manager with footballers. You’re always worried about a niggle or little injury or a little sickness.
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“We hope she puts in a big achievement but there is some mighty opposition. And you need something very important — you need some luck in running.”