Dettori the cream of the crop in Chantilly
Jockeys win on brilliant filly Enable is another feather in Frankie Dettori’s cap
Enable confirmed herself Europe’s champion racehorse of 2017 with a crushing Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe success on Sunday but almost inevitably conceded centre-stage at Chantilly to her jockey Frankie Dettori.
Racing has never had so flamboyant a figure as the veteran Italian and this Arc confirmed it also has rarely had as brilliant a big-race pilot.
Twenty two years after first winning Europe’s richest race, Dettori steered the 10-11 favourite through a potential tactical minefield with a sureness of touch and judgement which made securing a record fifth Arc victory seem almost routine.
It was also a fifth Arc for Enable’s owner-breeder, Prince Khalid Abdullah, and a fifth Group One in a row this season for the John Gosden trained filly. Order Of St George did best of Aidan O’Brien’s five runners in fourth place as Cloth Of Stars (25-1) and the 11-1 Ulysses filled the places.
In ‘nap-hand’ terms, however, it was Dettori’s record-breaking fifth victory which dominated attention of a sort the legendary 46-year-old rider still manages to command like no other.
Four previous victories at Longchamp had meant Dettori shared the old Arc record with a group which included legendary names such as Pat Eddery and Yves Saint-Martin. It was so elite it didn’t even have room for Lester Piggott who won France’s greatest race ‘only’ three times.
If Piggott’s nine Derby wins was ultimate testament to his mastery of Epsom, then Enable’s two and a half length victory in the second and final year of Chantilly filling in for the under construction Paris-Longchamp course testifies to Dettori’s singular Arc status.
And if his initial breathless reaction on pulling up was an understandable “Magnifique” then Dettori’s description of Enable as a “very special filly” made instant 3-1 odds about her doubling up when the great race returns to its spiritual home in 2018 seem almost tempting.
Because behind all the camera-friendly gurning and flying dismounts there remains no cooler or more calculating rider for the big occasion than Dettori.
This was another tactical master-class to go with his 2015 victory on Golden Horn and Enable’s credentials to become potentially just the fifth horse to win the Arc back-to-back since the war appear impeccable.
In fact Dettori would be less than human not to ponder how he twice missed out on the last back-to-back winner, Treve, first through injury, and then the indignity of being jocked off. That he’s won the Arc twice since is only further proof of the substance behind the showmanship.
Enable has secured singular status for herself too. No other three-year-old filly trained in Britain or Ireland had ever before won the Arc. Yet only Enable prevented a Ballydoyle clean-sweep of this year’s British and Irish classics and on Sunday she confirmed herself the best in Europe.
If much of the final two furlongs represented a procession as Enable powered clear it was the first two which facilitated it.
Dettori bounced the English favourite out quickly from her inside draw, secured a prominent position and delicately manoeuvred to one off the rail as Idaho and Order Of St George briefly threatened to make Enable the meat in a Ballydoyle sandwich.
The effort encouraged her to race more keenly than ideal but with room to work in both she and Dettori looked in command for the rest of the race.
“Frankie got her in a great position. He’s pretty good for an old jock!” joked Gosden who indicated Enable could be kept in training for a four-year-old campaign.
“She has only raced for ten months of her so there would be every reason to keep her in training, particularly with the new Longchamp opening. That would be exciting, to try and win the Arc on two different tracks,” he said.
No horse has ever managed that but on the day he managed what no other jockey has the last word typically went to Dettori.
“I had position A. I knew I had no weight and she stays so I kicked and she gave me four lengths and the race was over,” he laughed. “She’s amazing and is an absolute freak. I love her.”