Formidable Challengers stand between Enable and Arc three-peat

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

September 18th, 2019

A bid for racing history will take place October 6, when Longchamp Racecourse in Paris hosts the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), widely considered to be the most prestigious horse race in Europe.

Enable has already established a reputation as one of the finest runners to grace the sport in recent years. Her accomplishments are staggering. The Juddmonte Farms homebred has won 13 of her 14 starts for trainer John Gosden, including 10 group 1 races. With popular jockey Frankie Dettori in the saddle, she has won the last two editions of the Arc, and in 2018 she became the first horse to win the Arc and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in the same year.
It’s difficult to enhance a résumé so stellar, but Enable might have one more trick up her sleeve. If she can succeed in her bid to win a third consecutive Arc—a feat never before achieved—she’ll rise from the rank of “great” to “immortal” among the sport’s most legendary athletes.

With a perfect 3-for-3 record this season, it’s clear Enable remains in top form. Following hard-fought triumphs in the Coral Eclipse Stakes (G1) and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) against males, Enable took a step forward in her final prep run for the Arc, as she easily cruised to victory in the 1 1/2-mile Darley Yorkshire Oaks (G1) on August 22. There’s no reason to doubt her readiness for the Arc.
But formidable challengers stand between Enable and her bid for history. First and foremost are Japan and Sottsass, up-and-coming sophomores with big victories under their belts. The improving Japan recently edged top older male Crystal Ocean by a head in the Juddmonte International (G1), a feat all the more remarkable considering the 10 1/2-furlong distance was probably short of Japan’s best. In July, Japan nabbed the 1 1/2-mile Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris (G1) over the same course and distance as the Arc, so a return to these conditions could bring about a career-best performance from this Aidan O’Brien-trained colt.
Sottsass can also claim an affinity for the local conditions, as he scored comfortably in the 1 1/2-mile Qatar Prix Niel (G2) on September 15. This half-brother to American grass champion Sistercharlie also prevailed by two lengths in the Prix du Jockey Club (G1). It should be noted 3-year-old colts have won 47 of the 97 Arcs contested to date.
Enable might also face a challenge from within her own stable. Three-year-old fillies have won four of the last 11 editions of the Arc, perhaps in part because they carry four to 10 pounds less than their rivals, so Gosden’s Star Catcher might be one to watch. The winner of the Irish Oaks (G1), this exciting daughter of Sea the Stars stepped up and beat older mares in the 1 1/2-mile Prix Vermeille (G1) on September 15 at Longchamp. The only problem with facing Enable? Star Catcher will lose regular rider Frankie Dettori to the defending champion.
Leading the brigade of older challengers is Magical, who came within a length of defeating Enable in both the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf and the 2019 Coral-Eclipse. Conditioned by O’Brien, Magical recently emerged from Enable’s shadow with a dominant triumph in the 1 1/4-mile Irish Champion Stakes (G1), which set her up for another rematch with the champion.
Waldgeist has been beaten by Enable on three occasions, including a fourth in last year’s Arc, but this classy 5-year-old son of Galileo signaled his readiness for another tilt at the champ with a win the 1 1/2-mile Prix Foy (G2) at Longchamp for the second straight year.
Ghaiyyath was no match for Waldgeist in Longchamp’s 10 1/2-furlong Prix Ganay (G1) back in April, but this Godolphin 4-year-old took a huge step forward when stretched out to 1 1/2 miles in the Grosser Preis von Baden (G1) on September 1, when he powered clear to win by 14 lengths for a 128 Racing Post Rating—just one pound lower than Enable’s career-best rating. The challenging part will be defying the recent history of the Arc. Older males are burdened with the top weight of 131 pounds, and none have prevailed since Dylan Thomas in 2007.
The nation of Japan has never been represented by an Arc winner, but its quest for Longchamp glory will continue with bids from 2018 Arima Kinen (G1) winner Blast Onepiece, 2019 Tenno Sho Spring (G1) victor Fierement and 2018 Japan Cup (G1) runner-up Kiseki. The latter has already made one foray to France, where he prepped for the Arc with a third-place finish behind Waldgeist in the Prix Foy. While these three lack the star power of past raiders like Deep Impact and Orfevre, on their best day they’ve proven capable of delivering high-class performances.
The takeaway? Mark your calendars for October 6. The 2019 renewal of the Arc is going to be one for the ages.