GB: Mighty mare Enable will face three rivals, all trained by Aidan O’Brien, when she bids for a record third success in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
Khalid Abdullah’s six-year-old, winner of the midsummer showpiece in 2017 and 2019 under regular rider Frankie Dettori, will face fellow middle-distance stars Anthony Van Dyck, Japan and Sovereign in the £400,000 feature, which forms part of the 35-race Qipco British Champions Series
Enable has ruled supreme in 13 of her 16 races – ten of them in G1 company – but her bulging fan club has had to digest defeats in her past two races.
She finished runner-up in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp in October, when attempting to become the first triple winner of the race, and also had to settle for second behind Ghaiyyath on her reappearance this month in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes.
Reflecting on the Sandown contest, trainer John Gosden said: “I did try and tell people very clearly beforehand that she was not at 100 per cent. She tired in the last furlong but we were delighted with her run. I was very open with everybody that, being at the age she is now, she found it difficult to getting to race fitness; far more than ever before, even when she came back from injury as a four-year-old.
“She’s always been mentally hardened but what’s changed, with age, is her metabolism,” the trainer added, speaking in a Zoom conference organised by the Qipco British Champions Series team.
“Consequently, she never gained that tightness of the muscle like she normally would, it took her a lot longer. She’s a six-year-old racemare and not that wild, exuberant three-year-old race filly who could just do anything.
“I didn’t want to push her hard for the Eclipse. She knows what she wants to do: she’s very positive and a wonderfully filly to train in that that she is determined to do everything. So I just went with her. I wasn’t going to start pushing her and telling her what to do.
“The race has put her right and her work has been perfect on the Limekilns since. She’s been working with just one other horse, and I’ve let her lead a couple of works to just enjoy that for a change. She comes into this race in very good order.”
Asked if a couple of defeats suggested Enable may not be the force she was, he said: “I’m of the viewpoint that a Flat horse, if sound and healthy, reaches its zenith at five. I’ve seen that a lot, particularly in America where we tend to race them longer. I still see her at her peak, maybe not quite the peak, but she’s trained beautifully for this.”
O’Brien is also in pursuit of a fifth King George after the previous victories of Galileo (2001), Dylan Thomas (2007), Duke Of Marmalade (2008) and Highland Reel (2016).
However, he has yet to find a horse able to finish ahead of Enable. O’Brien has had 32 runners in races that Enable has contested but she has fended them all off.
In total, the master of Ballydoyle has run 19 different horses against her – several clashing with her on a regular basis.
The pick of his trio on Saturday looks to be Ryan Moore’s mount Japan. Last year’s Juddmonte International winner is joined by a pair of Derby-winning stablemates in the shape of Anthony Van Dyck (Oisin Murphy) and Sovereign (William Buick), who scored at Epsom and the Curragh respectively in 2019.
The King George is part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and you’re in’ Challenge, offering the winner a fees-paid berth to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, a race won two years ago by Enable.
King George betting (Paddy Power): 8-15 Enable, 5-2 Japan, 9 Anthony Van Dyck, 14 Sovereign.
• Visit the Qipco British Champions Series website