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Horse Racing

Matt Chapman is back and looks ahead to Enable’s historic bid for a third King George at Ascot

“MADE all in small field, quickened off bend, never challenged”. That could well be the in-running comment for Enable after today’s King George.

But hold on. Get this. Whether you love her and think she is incredible is neither here nor there – on ratings Enable has never been a worldy!

Yet, in middle distance races, the star mare has been dominant at the top level for three seasons now. Why?

Enable faces only three rivals in today’s feature on the main ITV network, the prestigious Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes at Ascot.

Only one stable other than her own takes her on, as her trainer John Gosden goes head to head with Aidan O’Brien.

COVID-19 or no Covid-19 it’s a crazy situation to be in. A Group 1 race with representation from just two yards and only a quintet going to post.

Now Enable fans will already be seething at me for suggesting the Frankie Dettori-ridden six-year-old is not box office material.

I’m not doing that. She is.

Ratings are not the be all and end all, because they depend on opposition. Enable might be better than her marks have ever suggested.

But what it does show is that with a BHA figure of 128 Enable has not blitzed a field or faced opposition stiff enough to boost her reputation with the official handicappers.

On the back of those facts, we have to ask ourselves whether the world’s desire to breed speed into horses, rather than stamina, has meant a dearth of middle distance contenders being bred outside of the super powers that be Coolmore and Gosden, who has the pick of so many major owners and breeding operations.

Where is Godolphin? Qatar? The Queen? Where are the owner breeders that were once the Howard de Walden or Freedman’s?

You see, when you look at the list of top middle distance horses around the world that could be at Ascot there are not many missing.

The Eclipse winner Ghaiyyath is one. He’s heading to the Juddmonte International. Not many people know it, but the Godolphin animal was the top rated horse on the planet to race between January and July 5 – with a mark of 127.

Other than that, though, Derby also rans Khalifa Sat and English King and Arc third Sottsass are nearly the only horses one would want in the field that are not under the O’Brien/Gosden umbrella.

I guess you could throw in Cox Plate runner-up Benbatl for Saeed bin Suroor.

From their yards, however, it would have been amazing to have the incredible Oaks heroine Love, Irish Derby victor Santiago, Epsom winner Serpentine or even triple Gold Cup victor Stradivarius taking their chances.

I don’t have any solutions here, and let’s face it breeders are not going to suddenly start changing their ways when there are not many King George-type horses around, but surely something needs to be done to encourage middle distance animals.

Prize money will be key, but in the current climate prize money in the UK is crucial at all levels. If owners see more money on offer in France and Ireland, let alone the colossal amount available in America, Dubai, Australia and Japan, it’s going to be very hard to persuade them to have their horses in training in Great Britain.

And let’s be sure about one thing. The UK is a fantastic place for horse racing because it brings variety rarely seen anywhere else in the world. British tracks are all different and set challenges that make the game super special.

Enable will be the first horse to land three King Georges should she score an expected success this afternoon.

Since it was first run in 1951, only two other equine stars have landed two King Georges, namely Dahlia (1973/74) and Swain (1997/98).

Perhaps more significantly, Frankie Dettori her partner would match Lester Piggott’s record seven successes as he can add to Lammtarra, Swain, Daylami and Doyen.

The Italian absolutely loves Enable, and it’s hard to make much of a case for her rivals.
The chief of those is the Ryan Moore-ridden Japan, who has been stuffed by Enable the last two times they have met. Moore thinks Japan is special, but the Juddmonte International hero will struggle on form to give weight and a beating to Prince Khalid Abduallah’s mare.

I just hope Enable smashes the field up. Then she might get a rating that matches the opinion of so many racing fans – that she is an absolute monster.


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