Enable gains epic King George victory over Crystal Ocean
John Gosden’s eyes said it all. After one of the greatest and most pulsating races ever seen, one in which the magnificent champion Enable was forced to dig into her very core to find what was needed to defeat Crystal Ocean in the QIPCO King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1), the champion trainer was wide-eyed with adrenaline and awe.
Gosden does not normally look like that after races, but what he — and the millions watching around the world — witnessed on Saturday, July 27 was not a normal race — not even close.
It was epic. A battle between two brilliant horses and jockeys that evoked memories of some of the finest races ever run. Perhaps it even was the finest race ever run.
“You had the best older horse and the best older filly taking on horses with that level of quality, and they outclassed the whole field,” Gosden said. “It was a proper King George — what more could racing have asked for?
“She showed a lot of guts. Crystal Ocean said to her, ‘I’m going to win this,’ and she said back, ‘No, I am,’ and she really showed mental toughness and so did he.”
Having been drawn widest of all in stall 11, Enable was held wide by her opponents as a blistering pace was set forcing Frankie Dettori to take her back twice to find a comfortable position toward the rear.
Dettori forfeited ground to his rivals, but turning for home he knew Crystal Ocean was the only horse he needed to beat. With a quarter of a mile to run, Frankie said, “Go.”
The champion mare engaged the overdrive that had taken her to glory in two editions of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), three group 1 Oaks, the Coral-Eclipse (G1), and the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T), but Crystal Ocean, the embodiment of tenacity and determination, would not lie down.
He fought for all his worth, he edged his head back in front of the wonder mare, and he called on all he had as the two warriors pulled away from their rivals. Yet Enable would not wilt, either, and the victory was hers as unbridled joy erupted among the energised and appreciative crowd.
The André Fabre-trained Waldgeist, who finished third to Crystal Ocean in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes (G1) last time, followed the pair home.
Dettori, so often frenetic in victory, was physically and emotionally drained by the experience, although his legions of fans were still treated to an enthusiastic flying dismount.
“I don’t want too many races like that because I’m absolutely exhausted,” he said. “In all my career, that was the hardest-fought big race I’ve had, with two champions fighting it out.
“Give credit to Crystal Ocean. He put it out there for me, and it was an amazing race. He was a bit like one of those flies that wouldn’t go away, and he was always there annoying me to the line.
“I knew he was the one to beat as he’s very strong around here, and once I put my head in front, I thought I was going to see it out. In fairness, he served it up to me, and we had a right titanic battle, but I always had the edge.”
Gosden felt Enable’s neck margin of victory was possibly reduced by having to go earlier than planned and said: “I said to Frankie before the race to stay cool, and he did. I thought he hit the front too soon, and I kept saying to myself, ‘No, no, wait,’ although I’m sure the great jockey will tell me why he moved then.”
Triumphing in her 11th straight contest and ninth group 1, the brilliant daughter of Nathaniel was pushed out to 7-4 favourite (from 6-4) by Betfair for her attempt at a historic third win in the Arc at Longchamp in October, and with her final stage drawing ever closer, Dettori was eager to savour the moment.
“She’s extraordinary, and she even surprised me today,” he said. “She’s an amazing horse in every way: her ability, her courage, how uncomplicated she is. I don’t know what to say. I love her.
“She gives me emotions that no other horse has ever given to me in my life, and she’s only with me for another three months, so I’m trying to capture and enjoy every moment as we’re probably only going to see her two more times. Let’s enjoy her, because she’s a superstar.”
York, for the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (G1) or the Juddmonte International Stakes (G1), and Paris had been connections’ plan for Enable, although whether she races again in Britain will depend on the after-effects of Ascot and the potential impact of another race on her Arc challenge.
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event, giving Enable an automatic trip back to the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park.
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner/breeder Khalid Adbullah, said: “What more can you say about her? That was a race for the ages.
“I think we’ve given up pre-guessing her. Last time we thought she’d had a hard race, she was bucking and kicking the next day and had eaten up and everything. The main target is the Arc, and if we thought it was best not to go to York, then that’s fine — we need to do what’s best for her.”