Breeders’ Cup Fantastic Finishes: Enable Makes History at Churchill

Breeders’ Cup Fantastic Finishes: Enable Makes History at Churchill

As the 35th Breeders’ Cup World Championships approached, one of the main storylines involved a European superstar who was planning an overseas jaunt with an elusive goal in her sights.

Enable, owned by Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms and trained by John Gosden, had already established herself as one of the best racehorses of the 21st Century by winning nine of 10 career starts and taking the prestigious Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in both 2017 and 2018. She shipped to Churchill Downs off of her second Arc triumph on Oct. 7 at Longchamp and would attempt in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf to become the first horse to win both races in the same calendar year, something that multiple elite runners had tried in previous years without success.

Enable had taken her second Arc by a neck over another filly, Sea of Class, but the Turf was only her third start of 2018 as she did not race until September while overcoming a minor knee injury, winning a Group 3 stakes on the all-weather surface at Kempton Park and then becoming the seventh dual Arc winner. That gave Juddmonte and Gosden even more confidence to ship her to Louisville for the Turf. The decision was made in mid-October, Juddmonte Racing Manager Teddy Grimthorpe telling Racing Post, “No Arc winner has won the Turf, but we’re looking for positives. Most of them to try had a hard, tough season by the time they got to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Thirteen horses lined up for the Longines Turf and it was a star-studded bunch, including such notables as North American Grade 1 winners Channel Maker (2018 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic), Glorious Empire (2018 Sword Dancer Stakes), Robert Bruce (2018 Arlington Million), and Sadler’s Joy (2017 Sword Dancer Stakes) as well as European-based Talismanic, who had won the 2017 Longines Turf at Del Mar. Adding even more appeal were two top-class European shippers: Waldgeist, who had won four group stakes in France during 2018 but finished fourth to Enable in the Arc; and Coolmore’s 3-year-old filly Magical. Magical had disappointed in the Arc, finishing 10th, but then was brought back quickly by trainer Aiden O’Brien and won the Group 1 QIPCO British Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes at Ascot on Oct. 20. She would face another swift turnaround in the Longines Turf two weeks later, plus a trans-Atlantic flight, but still figured as a major threat.

Despite all of the other horses’ credentials, Enable was a clear standout and was sent off as the 4-5 favorite, with Waldgeist second choice at 5.30-1. Channel Maker and Robert Bruce were backed at 7.50-1 and 9.70-1 odds, respectively, and Magical was the fifth betting choice at 10.10-1 odds. The 1 ½-mile race was held on a turf course rated good, which meant it was still firmer than most European courses that held the same rating. Regardless, through her first 10 races Enable excelled on a variety of course conditions, and the overall weather at post time was picture perfect.

Glorious Empire, who had won the 2018 Sword Dancer on the front end, set the early pace followed by Channel Maker, while Enable stalked in midpack through the first mile under patient handling by Frankie Dettori.

Dettori had taken the mount on Enable after her second start, which was her only loss at the time, and had been aboard for all five of her Group 1 wins in 2017 (including the English and Irish Oaks) as well as her two 2018 starts. As he moved Enable up heading into the final turn, he made a quick decision that in retrospect would prove crucial to victory, angling her to the outside in search of better ground. Enable bid for the lead at the top of the lane, but Magical had been tracking right behind her, and she was roused by jockey Ryan Moore to challenge. The two fillies quickly separated from the rest of the field and dueled all the way through the center of Churchill Downs’ stretch. Enable drifted even farther out to secure the right footing – and when she did, she found another gear just prior to the finish, winning by three-quarters of a length. The top pair’s dominance was reflected by runner-up Magical’s margin over third-place finisher Sadler’s Joy: nine lengths.

“To be honest with you, [Magical] eyeballed me, all right,” Dettori said to the media after the race. “At that moment, I didn’t ask [Enable] for full gear. There is that suspense moment when you know she’s going to go or not, and she did – thank God for that.

“The ground kind of spoiled it for my filly,” he added, “because I know she likes soft [going], but she really found it difficult. She had every chance of throwing the towel in, but she didn’t. She was very tough. Just look at the space we left till the third. She’s a superstar.”

“She’s been very brave and mentally very strong to get herself here,” trainer John Gosden said of Enable. “She did it here today with guts and determination.”

Enable became the fourth filly to win the Longines Turf and the first since Found scored for Coolmore in another memorable running at Keeneland in 2015. Juddmonte and Gosden would keep her in training for two more years, and her legend grew even though she did not come back to North America for another Breeders’ Cup try.

In 2019, Enable won three more Group 1 stakes to start her campaign but finished second to Waldgeist by 1 ¾ lengths in her bid for an Arc three-peat. In 2020, Enable won yet another Grade/Group 1 stakes – the 11th of her amazing career – and tried the Arc one final time. At long last, she struggled to compete when the running got going through Longchamp’s straight, finishing sixth on heavy turf that was not to her liking at all. Enable retired with 15 wins in 19 starts, just over $14 million in earnings, two Cartier Awards as Europe’s Horse of the Year (2017 and 2019), and history-making status as the only globe-trotting racehorse to capture the Arc and Longines Turf in the same calendar year.