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Is Enable worth the odds-on risk in the Breeders' Cup?

Ron Flatter  
VSiN.com

Arc_finish
Enable holds on to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe this month for the second year in a row. She is the odds-on favorite for the Breeders' Cup Turf on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. (Ron Flatter photo)

Las Vegas

They promised a decision within 10 days of winning a second consecutive Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. They delivered a day early.

“Prince Khalid has given the go ahead for Enable to run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.”

With that statement Tuesday, racing manager Sir Teddy Grimthorpe of Juddmonte Farms got racing’s Twittersphere scurrying like that scene in “Airplane” where the reporters rush to the phone booths and knock them over.

Opinions were spinning like newspapers headlines in an old movie. There were reminders that no horse has ever won the Arc and the Turf in the same year. Others were saying that Enable is different, because she is fresh with only two races in all of 2018. Still others were wondering if a filly that was on the shelf for 11 months because of a knee operation could be fit enough to be shipped to Churchill Downs and race another 1½ miles just four weeks after huffing and puffing to the finish at Longchamp.

“I wouldn’t say she didn’t have a tough race in the Arc,” Grimthorpe said. “But for a lot of Arc winners (the Breeders’ Cup) has come at the end of a long season where the Arc was the aim. So it is slightly different for her.”

So what are bettors saying?

Lacking any active wagering in the U.S., the best gauge is Oddschecker.com, a site that monitors European bookmakers. Over there Enable is best priced at 11-18 with a whole bunch of 4-7s showing up. That translates to about 3-5 on our tote boards.

Chad Brown, the titan of U.S. turf, figures to enter Arlington Million winner Robert Bruce, which in turn lost to Channel Maker last month in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. Channel Maker is 14-1 in the European markets, and Robert Bruce is 20-1.

There is plenty of logic behind the thought that those odds will be shorter at the track in two weeks with American money coming into the pool. But seriously, are Robert Bruce and Channel Maker in the same league as an English 4-year-old that was mentioned in the same breath as Winx last year in discussions about the world’s best racehorse?

History tells us that imports deserve the steam. European horses have won the last three runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Turf and 15 of the last 19.

But how do odds-on favorites do at the Breeders’ Cup as a whole? Since the championships began in 1985, there have been 59. Only 26 have won. Another 16 finished completely off the board.

There were two odds-on starters last year at Del Mar – Lady Aurelia in the Turf Sprint and Bolt d’Oro in the Juvenile. There were two in 2016 at Santa Anita – Dortmund in the Dirt Mile and California Chrome in the Classic. They all lost, ruining horizontal bets that had them singled in their races.

Golden Horn – the European champion that, like Enable, was trained by Gosden – was the last horse that came over here as an odds-on favorite for the Turf. Set off at 4-5, he came in second three years ago to Found, the Coolmore horse that was more suited to Keeneland’s softer ground.

Even Grimthorpe pointed out that another Arc-winning Juddmonte horse – Dancing Brave – went off at odds of 1-2 in the 1986 edition of the Turf and finished fourth to 3-1 shot Manila on a firm track at Santa Anita. Adding injury to insult, he came out of what proved to be his final race with an injury thanks to an eyeball-seeking chunk of turf.

“He was going there having run not just a lifetime best but a world best in the Arc,” Grimthorpe said. “It was just a bridge too far for him.”

Gosden said that Enable may have been only about 85 percent fit for the Arc, even admitting that she spiked a fever for a day or two in the immediate build-up to the race. But he was effusive talking about her workout Friday that convinced him and Grimthorpe to put her on a plane to Kentucky late this month.

“I think I’ve finally got her fit,” he told Racing UK. “She’s been great since (the Arc), and she is an extraordinary athlete.”

Extraordinary enough to single her on a Pick 6 card? That is a whole nuther question that will get a little more clarity Wednesday, when pre-entries for the Breeders’ Cup are announced.

Oh, one more thing. Will Enable race on after next month and maybe even try to be the first horse to win three consecutive Arcs?

“No decisions on her future will be made until after the race,” Grimthorpe said.

That could read like Juddmonte is set to announce her retirement from racing as soon as the Breeders’ Cup Turf has been run – and maybe won. But I was wrong about this once already, predicting last week that Enable was already done.

I should have known better. About a half-hour after the Arc, Grimthorpe came into the Longchamp media center. When I walked up to him, he greeted me with a friendly grab of the arm that was as much a gesture of recognition as it was a continuation of the victory celebration.

When I asked him about Enable coming to America, he said, “Well, you know the Prince is a big supporter of the Breeders’ Cup, but we’ll let you know in 10 days.”

It was actually nine. And maybe it was really right then and there in Paris – with confidence.

Racing notes and opinions

Another Gosden standout – Cracksman (4-5) – is the odds-on favorite against only seven rivals to win Saturday’s $1.7 million Group 1 British Champion Stakes over 1¼ miles of soft to heavy turf at Ascot. The 4-year-old colt gets blinkers for his first race since he was a sweaty, beaten, 2-5 favorite in June in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. Crystal Ocean (5-2) comes in off a second-place finish to Enable in a Group 3 prep on an all-weather track last month. The Coolmore colt Capri (8-1) looks to improve on a fifth-place finish in the Arc and might find the soft track more to his liking. With Gosden opting to send Juddmonte and Irish Champion winner Roaring Lion to Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II mile race at Ascot, his other entry in the Champion Stakes is Monarchs Glen (14-1), a live long shot that will sit off what figures to be an honest pace. The thought here is that Monarchs Glen may split Cracksman and Crystal Ocean, so he is worth including in exotics. The Champion Stakes is scheduled to start Saturday at 10:50 a.m. EDT.

Two horses that finished second and third to übermare Winx two weeks ago in Australia are the top betting choices Saturday in the $3.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup, the first big race of the Melbourne Spring Carnival. The 5-year-old gelding Kings Will Dream (9-2) was third to Winx in the Turnbull Stakes and is favored over Youngstar (5-1), a 4-year-old mare that was second in that race. Kings Will Dream has the edge having won the Mornington Cup in March at the same 1½-mile distance as this weekend’s race. Youngstar has never gone that far. The Coolmore colt The Cliffsofmoher (6-1), which finished fourth last week over the same track in the Caulfield Stakes, is the shortest-priced import. Trained by Andrew Balding, Duretto (22-1) is a 7-year-old English gelding that is worth a long look, since he won the Chester Stakes in August, and since he may have the most stamina of any of the 18 horses in the field. That may be important since rain is forecast and the course is likely to be soft. The Caulfield Cup starts Saturday at 1:40 a.m. EDT – Friday at 10:40 p.m. PDT.

No stranger to trouble, idle jockey Pat Valenzuela pleaded guilty to a charge of hitting his girlfriend at a restaurant near San Diego last month. Valenzuela, 56, was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to go into counseling. The winner on Sunday Silence in the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Valenzuela has had his jockey’s license suspended or revoked at least 14 times because of failed or missed drug tests.

You may read it as usual below in italics, but I will put emphasis here on the Ron Flatter Racing Pod. All the griping about stewards’ decisions this year got me thinking about putting together a roundtable to talk about it. Hoping to get some former stewards, I wound up landing two who are active – Bernie Hettel from Kentucky and Jon White from California. Former National Horseplayers Championship winner Paul Matties is also part of the panel. If you have never heard the RFRP, this may be a good time to come aboard. You may link to it via the red italics in the next paragraph.

Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com and after big races such as here. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, also posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. Controversial decisions coming out of objections and inquiries are the topic in a special, panel discussion with stewards Bernie Hettel and Jon White and champion horseplayer Paul Matties. The RFRP is also available at leading providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts and Stitcher.

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