The Qatar Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe clock is ticking for Enable and Frankie Dettori.
Sunday will be a fourth and final shot at Europe’s biggest all-age race for the six-year-old mare whose biological clock is telling her that it is time to become a mother rather a champion racehorse.
And her jockey, with his 50th birthday circled on the calendar in December, knows he does not have many more chances to add to his record six Arc wins.
Enable and jockey Frankie Dettori have another shot at racing immortality on Sunday
Tick, Tock. Tick, Tock.
But in reality Arc time has also stood still for Dettori and the mare he dotes over.
Twelve months on, the images of the John Gosden-trained mare hitting the front 400 metres from the line, going over a length clear and then being cut down in the final 50 metres by 16-1 shot Waldgeist as her bid for an historic third win in the Arc was thwarted are freeze frames in the memory.
Rewind and repeat. Even the heavy ground the runners will encounter at Longchamp after persistent rain all week is a case of deja vu.
Enable and Dettori get another shot at racing immortality, a second chance to do something no horse has ever done before by winning a third Arc.
Sunday will be a fourth and final shot at Europe’s biggest all-age race for six-year-old Enable
The fact that only 1,000 people will be allowed in to Longchamp compared to last year’s 45,000 with half from Britain and Ireland might lessen the pressure, but the thought of a similar outcome to 12 months’ ago is too difficult for Dettori to even contemplate.
The jockey said: ‘The two hours after last year’s Arc were the longest two hours of my riding career. It was hard.
‘There was so much expectation and we came so close. Now we’ve got another chance.’
After Thursday’s withdrawal of Aidan O’Brien-trained 1,000 Guineas and Oaks winner Love, seen as Enable’s biggest rival, expectations are getting close to what they were 12 months ago.
Second favourite now is Enable’s John Gosden-trained stablemate and three-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Stradivarius, with last year’s third Sottsass next in the betting.
Frankie Dettori knows he does not have many more chances to add to his record six Arc wins
Stamina will not be a problem for Stradivarius. The chestnut colt Dettori has ridden to his three Gold Cup successes for owner Bjorn Nielsen is dropping back in distance to have a crack at the Arc with four-time Arc winning jockey Olivier Peslier stepping in for Dettori, who lets out a mock shriek of horror when Stradivarius is mentioned.
Dettori said: ‘Strad is a big danger. I have Bjorn taking the p*** out of me, bombarding me with texts that I have chosen the wrong one!’ Not that there was ever a chance Dettori would abandon Enable. His love affair with the mare he has ridden in 16 of her 18 races has long been an open secret. A lump is never far from his throat when he talks about what might have been and what he hopes will be for Enable.
The Italian said: ‘Whenever I am asked about her I find it really hard. I want her to be remembered as one of the greats. I have got lots to look forward to but it will be a massive loss emotionally to me when she retires and I try not to think about it or else I get all depressed.
‘I am 50 in two months’ time. I have not got long left. To find another Enable is highly unlikely. What makes her special? She has everything — presence and character. She is a beautiful physical specimen and has a lung capacity like no horse I have ridden.
‘She is also very clever. I see two horses, Enable in the morning and Enable in the afternoon. It is amazing what I see and feel. She grows a foot on the track.
‘She floats like a hovercraft. She knows it’s race day. She is like a boxer going into the ring. The gloves are on, her veins are sticking out and she grinds her teeth. She wants it.
O’BRIEN FEED SCARE
Trainer Aidan O’Brien was waiting for confirmation his four Arc runners can run after feed he uses was found to have been contaminated by a prohibited substance.
Results from blood and feed samples may not be known until tonight. Other trainers are also having to test their horses.
Soft ground has ruled Battaash out of Sunday’s Prix de L’Abbaye leaving Kevin Ryan-trained Glass Slippers (Tom Eaves) the new favourite as she tries to win the race for the second year running.
She has a tricky high draw though.
‘I can’t believe she still has her zest for racing at six. She is not as exuberant as she was as a three-year-old but physically she is a lot stronger.’
In Love’s absence, Ryan Moore has chosen Grand Prix de Paris winner Mogul, whose 2020 form could be described as mixed, over runaway Derby winner Serpentine, who will surely revert to more positive tactics under Christophe Soumillon after his fourth in the Grand Prix de Paris when ridden with restraint.
The value has been squeezed out of the price of German Derby winner and Grand Prix de Paris runner-up In Swoop in the belief he will cope better than most with the testing conditions.
The mystery factor is supplied by Persian King. The representative of Andre Fabre, the man who has trained a record eight Arc winners, looked special when winning the Prix Du Moulin over a mile last month but he has never raced over the mile and a half of the Arc and conditions will mean any stamina weakness should surface.
In her three runs this season Enable was second to Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown after Gosden had warned she was short of match fitness, easily won the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which turned into a disappointing three-runner race at Ascot, and had no more than a leg stretch when winning the September Stakes at Kempton.
But the season’s focus has again been on one day.
Dettori added: ‘John is training her to peak on October 4. It is only then that we will find out if she is still as good, better or worse. I won’t be able to tell you until she has competition to ask her some questions.’
The time is nearly here to see if Enable has the answers again.