En­able’s cre­den­tials hard to dis­pute

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RACING NEWS AND PROGRAMMES - BRIAN O’CON­NOR Rac­ing cor­re­spon­dent

Ai­dan O’Brien runs a team of five to­mor­row’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Tri­om­phe but the odds look to favour En­able com­plet­ing back-to-back vic­to­ries in Europe’s great­est all-aged race.

Even con­sid­er­ing the com­mer­cial stud im­per­a­tives in­volved, and how leg­endary names such as Ni­jin­sky failed to win it, it’s no­table how only seven horses – and just four since the sec­ond World War – have man­aged to twice win the Arc.

It in­di­cates the scale of the chal­lenge of France’s most cov­eted prize. De­spite that, the Arc’s record-break­ing trainer An­dre Fabre re­flects a rare con­sen­sus when he points out how so much of the big race will re­volve around En­able. The renowned trainer is in pur­suit of an eighth vic­tory in the ¤5 mil­lion high­light which re­turns to its re­built Longchamp home af­ter two years at Chan­tilly.

Waldgeist leads Fabre’s trio of proven Group One stars but the French­man turned to foot­ball to quan­tify their chal­lenge. “It’s like play­ing Barcelona, tak­ing on En­able. Barcelona do get beaten. But it’s like com­bin­ing them with Manch­ester City, hav­ing to take on En­able, Prince Khalid, John Gos­den and the Messi – Frankie Dettori,” said Fabre.

Record

Last year’s Dettori se­cured a record fifth Arc for a jockey as En­able routed her op­po­si­tion. If she wins again her owner, Prince Khalid, will join the French­man Mar­cel Bous­sac on a record six Arc vic­to­ries. It will be a third for Gos­den.

A lin­ger­ing fear of the “bounce” fac­tor fol­low­ing her im­pres­sive re­turn to ac­tion from in­jury last month might en­cour­age En­able’s op­po­si­tion although prob­a­bly not enough to shake a wide­spread be­lief that this Arc could be a sin­gle horse’s to lose.

How­ever no team goes into the Arc pro­gramme in bet­ter form than Bal­ly­doyle. O’Brien has run­ners in all six Group One races to­mor­row. And no one will for­get what can hap­pen when he at­tacks the Arc in strength af­ter 2016’s un­prece­dented 1-2-3. Found’s win added to Dy­lan Thomas in 2007, two of just seven Ir­ish-trained Arc win­ners. The first, Bal­ly­moss, 60 years ago, had won the English Leger the sea­son be­fore. Capri tries to do the same un­der O’Brien’s son Don­nacha. But it is this year’s Leger hero, Kew Gar­dens, that looks the sta­ble num­ber one. Ryan Moore’s mount won the Grand Prix de Paris over the course and dis­tance in July. That was be­fore virus prob­lems struck that re­sulted in a rare two-month Group One drought for O’Brien which only ended with that Leger win.

Prior to Paris, this af­ter­noon sees an O’Brien trio tackle the Sun Char­iot Stakes as the trainer seeks a hat-trick in New­mar­ket’s fea­ture. Vic­tory for Clem­mie or one of her sta­ble com­pan­ions will gen­er­ate even more mo­men­tum go­ing into an Arc.

Kew Gar­dens hasn’t been helped by be­ing in stall 14 with statis­tics paint­ing a bleak pic­ture for horses drawn in dou­ble-digit fig­ures. What might help though is that he is drawn be­tween Waldgeist and an­other ma­jor fancy in Sea Of Class.

The lat­ter could com­plete a fairytale fam­ily suc­cess since her sire, Sea The Stars, won the Arc in 2009 and her grand­mother, Ur­ban Sea, won it 25 years ago. A more prac­ti­cal el­e­ment to the Sea Of Class story will the strug­gle her 5ft 9in jockey James Doyle faces to get down to do 8.9. Em­pa­thy alone will en­sure Doyle has plenty of neu­tral sup­port come 3.05 Ir­ish-time. How­ever when it comes to Arc jock­eys, Dettori is un­ri­valled gen­er­ally. And in this par­tic­u­lar Arc En­able could be too.

Franke Dettori and En­able are favourites to re­peat last year’s win

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