Sport » Horses
Frankie Dettori has ridden hundreds of thousands of horses in his 30-plus years as the world’s most celebrated jockey, but it’s his most recent major partnership that has meant the most to him.
“She is the horse that I’ve loved the most in all my career; she really touched my heart,” said the Italian-British rider when he heard this week that superstar race mare Enable was retiring to stud.
“I did have a cry last night when I was told, but more of joy than sadness because of all the great memories she gave me.”
The six-year-old, winner of 11 Group 1 races, secured her legacy as one of horse racing’s all-time brightest stars with back-to-back victories in Europe’s richest race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and a record three wins in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
Dettori rode her in all but one of her 15 victories and she has been credited with rejuvenating the 49-year-old’s career.
“I’m not saying she was the best I ever rode,” he said in one of several media interviews on Monday. “Golden Horn, Dubai Millennium and Lammtarra were real champions; but she was almost unbeatable.”
He might have also mentioned memorable pairings with Daylami, Swain, Singspiel, Ouija Board, Fantastic Light and Stadivarius, but it was Enable that reduced him to tears.
“I had to emotionally accept it,” added the great man. “But I woke up this morning, I was fine. Now that I know that she’s safe and she’s gone, I’m able to slowly be touched by emotions and just look at the wider picture. She’s done so brilliant for all of us and I love her. I’m never going to forget her. I went to see her this morning. We had a tremendous journey for three-and-a-half, four years.”
Enable ran her last race on 4 October at Longchamp in Paris, making her second attempt to become the first horse to win three Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes. She was undone by a slow pace and heavy ground and finished unplaced for the first time in her career.
After that, trainer John Gosden hinted she might have a swansong at either Ascot’s Champions’ Day this coming weekend or the upcoming Breeders’ Cup meeting in the US. But her owner Khalid Abdullah, a member of Saudi royalty, a billionaire business mogul and one of the world’s most prominent racing personalities, decided on Monday to retire her and set her on a new career at his Juddmonte Farm breeding operation.
Her first assignation will be with Kingman, a top miler in his racing days and a stallion making waves in the UK – as evidenced by keen buying interest at the yearling sale currently underway at Newmarket.
Many racing fans have speculated about Enable being covered by Frankel, also owned by Abdullah and reckoned by many to have been the best horse to grace the turf. However, this dream mating is unlikely to happen as bloodline experts say the two stars are too closely related.
When it was suggested he might one day ride Enable’s offspring in races, Dettori laughed and said: “Is that a dangling carrot to keep me going?”
Asked to choose the sweetest memory of his association with Enable, the jockey opted for 2019’s King George, when she beat Crystal Ocean by a neck.
“What a race, the line-up of horses … the Arc winner Waldgeist, Derby winners … They were all in there and Crystal Ocean was a proper horse and we had some duel. She had every opportunity to throw in the towel but she didn’t. What a wonderful mare she is, so strong.
“But I guess the best performance would be the first Arc. Never at any stage I thought was she going to get beat. And the Oaks. So many great performances, I’ll cherish all of them. She owes nobody anything. She’s been a superstar.”
Abdullah is so big in racing that he has a lord of the British realm working for him as his racing manager. Lord Grimthorpe had this to say about Enable: “My fondest memory of her is her character as much as anything. She had a very strong personality and she stomped round the parade ring.
“On the racecourse there’s not one race which stands out – how can you belittle 11 Group 1s by not mentioning each and every one. They all had a special moment, from the Oaks in a thunderstorm in a record time and then to build upon that with a King George and Arc, come back from injury, do the Arc again and Breeders’ Cup. It was an extraordinary sequence.
“Her King George with Crystal Ocean was a pulsating dual not seen since Grundy and Bustino in the ’70s.
“There are many ways of judging a racehorse. The statisticians love ratings but for me people will remember her a long time after the one-hit wonders have come and gone because she brought her personality to the fore.
“That was helped by her jockey’s great personality. It’s what she’s given to racing which is so special and people have bought into that. Her whole persona, the big eyes, the big ears, she’s gorgeous – what’s not to love about that.”
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