Aidan O’Brien’s five Arc starters face tough rival Enable

Frankie Dettori odds on to secure record fifth Arc victory on Sunday at Chantilly

Among Aidan O’Brien’s 15 Group One runners this weekend are five for Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Yet despite such strength in depth so much will still revolve around Frankie Dettori and Enable.

Although over the decades many great champions have found Europe’s richest race one final step too far, Enable’s apparent superiority is such a case can be made that this Arc is hers to lose.

The long-time odds-on favourite has a large but not especially vintage field to beat and she boasts impeccable credentials on the back of four straight Group One victories including a King George rout of male opposition.

The predicted testing conditions won't be a problem and fears expressed by her trainer John Gosden about the Chantilly track will have been soothed somewhat by a low draw in stall two.


With only Ulysses on her inside, the way looks clear for Enable to go forward early, secure a position and put her stamp on proceedings.

Considering it’s only two years since Gosden produced Golden Horn to overcome a bad draw – and off a similarly lengthy campaign to Enable’s – it’s hard to knock bookmakers making her odds on even if it is for Europe’s greatest all-aged prize.

She also has the plus of having Europe’s ultimate big-race magician on her back. And if the Arc wasn’t motivation enough in itself Dettori has history in his sights.


The mercurial Italian is one of an elite group of just seven riders with four Arc victories to their credit. They include legendary names such as Yves Saint-Martin and Pat Eddery. Olivier Peslier is another and he has to watch from the sidelines.

A singular character in racing history anyway, Dettori’s “game-face” is likely to be very serious indeed come 3.05 on Sunday afternoon as he will surely never have a better chance of securing a notable record all for himself.

Five of Enable’s 17 opponents will come from Ballydoyle with O’Brien chasing a third Arc, a decade following Dylan Thomas at Longchamp, and a year after a historic ‘1-2-3’ at the great race’s temporary Chantilly home.

Ireland’s champion trainer can boast his own outstanding four-time Group One-winning three-year-old filly but it’s a mammoth ask for Winter in her first try at a mile and a half.

If ground conditions get very testing in Paris Ryan Moore could live to regret overlooking the dual-Irish Leger hero Order Of St George who will be ridden by the trainer's son, Donnacha.

The Doncaster Leger hero from a fortnight ago, Capri, could also be a player too but his chance isn’t helped by a 15 draw. But with Idaho and Seventh Heaven also in the race, the Ballydoyle team is likely to have a major say on the complexion of how the race is run.

Top-flight winners

German and Japanese runners again help make this an international Arc especially since the home team appears relatively weak. But making allowances for racing luck and circumstance it’s hard to avoid portraying this as one of those Arcs which revolves around a single runner – and her jockey.

O’Brien’s pursuit of the eight top-flight winners that will take him past Bobby Frankel’s world record tally of 25 in a calendar year could make or break on the back this weekend’s eight Group One pots.

Churchill’s sister, Clemmie, goes in Saturday’s Cheveley Park Stakes on the same Newmarket card in which Sioux Nation leads a four-strong O’Brien team into the Middle Park Stakes. Gordon Elliott’s Beckford gets a third try at a top-flight prize in the same race.

O’Brien will have runners in four of the five other Group One’s at Chantilly with Hydrangea and Rhododendron joining Dermot Weld’s Shamreen in the Prix de l’Opera.

An intriguing Ballydoyle starter on Sunday will be the Moyglare winner Happily who takes on colts in the Prix Jean Luc Lagadere. Her stable companion Magical tackles the Prix Marcel Boussac.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column