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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Plenty of great European turf horses have come along in the half century Thoroughbred racing has been my life, especially since the 1984 advent of Breeders’ Cup, especially Mile winners Miesque and Goldikova.

Every racing fan has their favorite horse(s), those that tug at the heartstrings. But for some unknown reason, Enable has played my heart as the Godfather would; like the puppet on a string.

It helps, too, when you have utmost respect for the connections, not owners ordinarily, though the sport owes Prince Khalid Abdullah a debt of gratitude. Ultimately it was his decision that she return as a 6-year-old, trying to win that history making third Arc.

Trainer John Gosden is a class act, going back to his days in Southern California before he returned from whence he came, a legend in the making.

What can one say about Frankie Dettori? He’s been great for so long–his positioning, hands, timing and strength, nearly flawless on all counts–that his legendary status has long been secure.


Cynics say that the Prince didn’t want the great mare to go out a “loser,” as if she had anything to prove to anyone. And even if that were true, so what? She’ll be back next year and all can see her race again; that’s all that matters.

“My girl is staying in training for next year,” Dettori tweeted out this week. “I can’t wait. Come on Enable.”

The daughter of Nathaniel from the Sadler’s Wells mare, Concentric, attempted an unprecedented Arc de Triomphe three-peat that would have been a remarkable 13th straight victory while competing at the highest levels against males, females, whatever the distance.

Enable’s Arc placing was her first defeat in 29 months!

It’s no secret that the ground worked against her on Arc day. The soft course compromised her consistent late kick, the attribute she uses most effectively to win. She made a run to reach the lead then lost her best action, wheel spinning that led to fatigue.

In the run that began in May, 2017, were 10 Group/Grade 1 victories but for me it was last year’s Turf that caused me to go over the top of fandom. It wasn’t so much that she became the first Arc winner to win the Turf, it was the entire scenario.

The Arc never is easily won, especially in 2018 when the great mare had to reach bottom to get the job done.

To come back on short rest, get on a plane for a 4,000 mile trip, it is ironic that it wasn’t until she reached headstretch at Churchill Downs that she was caught in turbulence. Enable overcame all of it, like the great ones do.

In this year’s Arc, she opened up on the field and appeared to be on her way home when the ground began taking its toll. Waldgeist, a very good horse, came over the top and ran her down with great determination. Enable just could not match strides.

In the aftermath, there was talk of another race this year, a possible defense of her Turf title. The connections wisely chose not to race again. We can’t help wonder if Gosden second-guessed himself about going for a Yorkshire Oaks repeat rather than train up to the Arc. Don’t expect we’ll ever know that.

Wherever and whenever she makes her 6-year-old debut, she will enter the race with a lifetime mark of (15) 13-1-1. All those Group efforts have allowed her to amass earnings of more than $13 million.

Soon after Tuesday’s announcement, William Hill posted Enable’s future odds to win the 2020 Arc at 10-1. Within a half hour, she was bet down to 7-1. A William Hill spokesman told the Racing Post “I cannot remember the last time we racked up a six-figure liability in under 20 minutes.”  

Omaha Beach at Oaklawn Park
photo: Coady Photography

Wouldn’t it be great if American fans got a chance to enjoy a healthy Omaha Beach beyond the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, his announced career finale?

Owner Rick Porter, a noted sportsman, sold Omaha Beach’s breeding rights to Spendthrift Farms before the Kentucky Derby, so the decision might not be his to make.

Prior to the Derby, the son of War Front and morning-line Derby favorite was a hotly pursued property. Wayne Hughes won the bidding war but the agreement likely went beyond the usual dollars-and-cents considerations.

When Porter first met Hughes, he had been battling cancer for three years and treatment was not going well. At the time Hughes was financially supporting an experimental cancer treatment program at the renown Mass General. Hughes was able to get Porter into a clinical trial.

The result is that Porter is in full remission and has been for just over two years. Porter credits Hughes’ intervention for saving his life, so if Hughes wants to make this breeding season, it’s likely that Porter would defer to Hughes.

But perhaps these sportsmen will have a change of heart and agree to share their prize Thoroughbred with racing fans. A healthy Omaha Beach has all the tools needed to become the Spectacular Bid of this era. As Mandella said this week, racing needs its stars.

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10 Responses

  1. JP, Rob Gronkowski retired from The Patriots at age 29. Smart move. Why risk it? Same goes for Omaha Beach, IMO. Forego couldn’t make babies so we got to enjoy him mow down all comers (almost all). Your stats on Enable are incredible. Can she have foals? I think the prospect of future Enables and Omaha Beaches is compelling enough to go straight to the breeding shed. Must be getting risk-averse in my old age.

  2. Could be getting riskaverse Mal, but you’re entitled.

    I fully understand that racing is a business and I’m probably being naive, judgmental , or both, to think that when you’ve been blessed with riches–yes, they worked hard, but a lot of people work hard and live paycheck to paycheck–so it is a blessing, anyway.

    To share your passion with the world, so to speak, a bit priceless, don’t you think.

  3. I,

    Everyone remotely tethered to the game knew of Mr. Porter’s illness, he did not look well and…

    Anyway, I never saw this story and I read everything I can find but sometimes life gets in the way and you miss it.

    Quite a yarn, and a most extraordinary happy ending. If Mark hadn’t mentioned something about the ‘Bid’ potential, I never would have recorded these disparate events.

    A great start to any day, indeed.

  4. You are correct DennyBest. I should have provided better context. I didn’t mean that the two horses should be prepared, and neither did Mark when he suggested it.

    The context is that Spectacular Bid was so dominant in his 4-year-old season that not a single competitor would line up to run against him in the Woodward Stakes.

    In 1980 Bid went 9-for-9, including five G1s st four different tracks. Should Omaha Beach race at 4, he would have the opportunity to define his greatness for history.

  5. Was at Meadowlands the night Bid won there. Marty Blum was allowed to go to the post race event and I got to go w/him. Saw the connections and others and a very jubilant bunch of others. Just had to throw that in, ha, ha. Marty was a good handicapper back in the day. He gave me Deputed Testamony in Preakness. We both went there the Friday before the race. Only Maryland Bred to win the race. Sloppy track. Thanks for the update on Bid’s amazing record. Oh yeah, neither Blum nor I had a nickel on Deputed Testamony. Short bankrolls after Friday and early Saturday cards. You can’t make this stuff up.

  6. Always thought of Marty as a bit of a clown and HP made him famous, but I will give him this. On Thoroughbred Action’ he always referred to as “muscle sore” and”muscle sore rebound.” But now that I think of it, that might have been his way to crudely refer to the ‘bounce’ theory.

    Meanwhile, hope your money management skills have improved–LOL.

  7. Marty was an angle player, much like Tony DeMucci (conducted race analysis on Tuesday mornings at OTB parlors). Both these players were awfully good at finding an angle or something most would miss or not even know about. Both would also not skip many races which can prove disastrous financially. Harness, Flat, it makes no difference to them, and me. They liked their action “every day and every way.”

  8. Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the challenges. It was definitely informative. Your site is very useful. Thank you for sharing!

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