FANTASTIC filly Enable joined the racing greats as she clung on to land her second Arc de Triomphe.
The brilliance of last year’s Chantilly victory might have been lacking after a troubled season.
This time her bravery carried her home as Europe’s great Flat race returned to redeveloped Longchamp.
Frankie Dettori – winning his sixth Arc – scraped every ounce of energy from John Gosden’s superstar in the closing stages as runner-up Sea Of Class flew home.
The official distance was a short neck.
In truth, it was just a few inches that denied William Haggas’ Yorkshire Oaks heroine victory after weaving her way through from the rear from a tricky wide draw.
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Enable – backed down to 10-11 favourite – became the eighth dual winner of the Arc. If Dettori gets his way she’ll be back next year to try to add a record third.
He clasped his hands together in prayer as trainer John Gosden explained the decision will be solely down to owner-breeder Prince Khalid Abullah.
Racing fans across Europe had similar thoughts as they joined him in worship of one wonderful champion.
Dettori said: “I can’t believe it – I’m stuck for words.
“It was my 30th Arc and it’s probably the most nervous I’ve been. It was a long morning.
“I had the world behind me – everyone wanted her to win – so you do feel the pressure.
“Things went according to plan in the race. I found myself in a fantastic spot.
“As we came into the false straight the life in the old girl came back – I knew then we were in business.
“I waited as long as I could and when I said ‘come on girl let’s go’ the trademark turn of foot was there. She put the race to bed then.
“The last 50 yards the poor girl was tired. She wasn’t the Enable of last year but she’s got the job done.”
A leaking blood vessel had kept Enable off the track during the summer peak-season.
Last month’s Kempton comeback on the all-weather could not have gone smoother but a late scare left her trainer scrabbling for some hair to pull out.
Gosden revealed Enable had got a temperature in the run-up to her Arc defence.
It was enough to get even her usually ice-cold trainer hot under the collar.
He laughed: “I had a lot of hair when I started this year but I’ve got none left now.
“That was phenomenal after the preparation she’s had. It’s been a nightmare year – I make no bones about that.
“You’re not meant to win the Arc on one run on the all-weather. You’re just not mean to do it – it’s against the rules.
“She’s very strong – she’s got a great mind and a great body. If a football manager has a player who will go out there and give their all everyday they’re great to work with – you can build a team around them. She’s one of those.
“The last 100 metres was a long way for this filly off that pace in this greasy ground – I think it just told fitness-wise. The whole year has been a long way for me.
“This is all down to the filly and the owner breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah to produce a filly like this. It’s all down to him – it’s not a lot to do with Frankie or myself.”
As a race it will go down as exceptional as the vintage wine drunk in the bars of the Champs Elysees.
It seemed unfair that there had to be a loser. Great champions are made by the brilliance of the horses pushing them.
There’s no doubt Sea Of Class – ridden by James Doyle – is from that top drawer. If Enable returns to Paris next autumn it could be a racing rematch of all-time.
Haggas said: “She ran a great race – she’s been beaten by a champion.
“I was thrilled with the ride she got. It was just unfortunate – we needed another five metres.
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“Let’s hope we can put it right next year – and that John retires Enable. I haven’t discussed it with Mrs Tsui but I very much hope Sea Of Class stays in training. And I expect she will.”
The disappointment was there on Doyle’s face for all to see. Sea Of Class must have made up 12 lengths in the straight only to fall agonisingly short.
Doyle said: “We had to take our medicine from that draw – another two strides she’d have got there.
“I thought she deserved to win coming from that far back. She was sensational.”
It was a sensational race won by a sensational horse with a sensational performance from the runner-up on a sensational day.
It’s a word that’s often over-used – not on this occasion.