09/29/2017 2:16PM

Hovdey: Enable's biggest test will be negotiating Chantilly


Here we go again, another fabulous filly, this one running on Sunday in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s most famous horse race.

Winx, Beholder, Songbird, Gentildonna, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Black Caviar – the head spins at the excitement generated in just the last 10 years. This one’s name is Enable, a granddaughter of both Galileo and Sadler’s Wells who is owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by John Gosden, so I guess she really shouldn’t be a surprise.

Enable has done enough this year to be heavily favored in a field of rough-and-ready colts going a mile and a half at Chantilly, where the Arc has set up shop while Longchamp is being remodeled. Chantilly is the track with the majestic edifice spread along part of the backstretch that is referred to, with a straight face, as “the Royal Stables,” which is kind of like calling Augusta National a members-only pitch-and-putt.

The building actually was a stable for the royal herd, though, and now doubles as both a museum and a dizzy distraction when any field of horses runs in its shadow, dwarfed by the monumental façade. Even a race like the Arc looks small at Chantilly.

After four straight major wins, including a thumping of the lads in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Enable seems fit and ready to rise to the occasion. If successful, she would follow in the footsteps of Zarkava (2008), Danedream (2011), and Treve (2013) as 3-year-old fillies who have dominated recent runnings of the Arc.

Americans swoon at the idea that such young, frail things could take such a prize, tantamount to a Kentucky Oaks winner adding the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in the year. Enable will try to become the 13th 3-year-old filly to join the list since the Arc was inaugurated in 1920.

“I’d feel better if the race was run at Longchamp,” Gosden said this week as he put the finishing touches on Enable. “Chantilly can be a bit tricky.

“The mile and a half at Longchamp is a very fair course,” Gosden continued. “Chantilly is a much narrower track, with a hairpin turn into the straight. The rider pretty much has to anchor his horse around there, otherwise they might find themselves down the slope into the lake by the chateau.”

I forgot to mention, the backdrop around the turn includes the Domaine de Chantilly, built in the mid-16th century, partially destroyed in the French Revolution, then rebuilt in the late 1800s. Today, it’s an art museum.

“In a large field like the Arc, the draw becomes far more important at Chantilly than Longchamp,” Gosden said. “Draw outside and you’re assured of losing a lot of ground. Draw inside and there’s a chance you could be trapped without many options.”

One day later, Enable drew post 2 in a field of 18. Ulysses, her primary challenger, landed post 1.

“Wherever she draws, Frankie will have to be creative,” Gosden added. “He’s certainly done that before.”

Frankie Dettori, Gosden’s go-to guy, won his fourth Arc in 2015 aboard Golden Horn for Gosden by placing his colt far adrift from the clustered field through the early stages before unleashing a powerful final three furlongs.

In last year’s Arc at Chantilly, the 4-year-old filly Found left from post 12, after which Ryan Moore steered her straight to the inside and kept her there until the final quarter-mile, at which point she shot between horses and drew off to defeat her Aidan O’Brien stablemates Highland Reel and Order of St. George. O’Brien has five in the Arc this year, led by the 3-year-old filly Winter.

But it is Enable who is stealing all the attention, and rightfully so. She is a classic bay with black mane, tail, and leggings, described by her trainer as a substantial physical specimen, topped by a refined head decorated with a lopsided star that mimics the marking of her sire, Nathaniel, and adds a thin blaze all her own. Gosden also trained Nathaniel, who retired with a Timeform rating of 131.

Once the Arc is in the books, Gosden can turn his attention to the Champions Day races at Ascot on Oct. 14, and after that the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, on Nov. 3 and 4. He hopes to have his ace 3-year-old colt Cracksman on tilt for the Champion Stakes, but as for Del Mar . . .

“We’ll have to use our imagination to have something for the Breeders’ Cup,” Gosden said. “I was disappointed to see that they’ve cut the Filly and Mare Turf back to a mile and one-eighth. I would have thought they could have started it on the backstretch, like the Del Mar Handicap, and run it at a mile and three-eighths.”

Gosden was a Del Mar regular during the American phase of his international career. Star Pastures, owned by the late Robert Sangster, gave the trainer his first American stakes win in a division of the 1982 Palomar Handicap on the Del Mar turf. Later, he trained Eclipse champions Bates Motel and Royal Heroine.

“I haven’t been to Del Mar since 1988,” Gosden said. “I’ve never even seen the new grandstand, which I guess is now 25 years old. So I can’t imagine missing the Breeders’ Cup there. But let’s get through Sunday first.”