She burst to the lead with a quarter of a mile to go. It was done. Enable was actually going to go where no Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe horse in the past century had gone before. The unprecedented three-peat was hers.
But with an eighth of a mile to go, it all fell apart.
Waldgeist (13-1), that pesky 5-year-old that tried and failed three previous times to beat Enable, finally did it Sunday afternoon.
Sneaking up on rail-hugging Enable (1-2), jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot took a wide path down the middle of the track to reel in the mare ranked the best thoroughbred in the world. Waldgeist finished 1¾ lengths past Enable in the $5.49 million Group 1 race around 1½ miles of very soft turf at ParisLongchamp.
“We kicked Bambi,” said Boudot, whose first Arc win was one of six victories he rode during the ParisLongchamp weekend.
Bambi, huh? Boudot could feel it. With every step Waldgeist took in that last eighth of a mile, a powder-keg din of celebration from about 40,000 fans turned ever more silent and finally fizzled. The sound may as well have been a gauge measuring what was left in Enable's tank.
“My filly was already tired,” her jockey Frankie Dettori said. “Past 200 (meters to go) I was just spent. The ground had nothing to do with it.”
But that feeling was not unanimous on Team Enable.
“She just got outstayed on the sticky ground, that's all,” said Lord Teddy Grimthorpe, the racing manager for owner Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms.
“She ran an absolutely brilliant race,” trainer John Gosden said. “Frankie committed and went for it, and with the ground testing her it's hard to show that turn of foot.”
So much for the thought that Enable could win on anything from pavement to quicksand. Conversely, the winner surprised more than a few handicappers – this one included – in getting a patient, trouble-free trip on the boggy ground.
“I'm always worried whether it's dry ground, wet ground, good ground,” said Dietrich von Boetticher of Waldgeist's German ownership group Gestüt Ammerland. “The ground may have been a bit of a challenge. But I think the horse has become stronger over time. I didn't expect him to accelerate at the finish the way he did. He exploded.”
Waldgeist closed what had been a 1½-length gap between him and Enable. But just like last year, Enable also faded. Unlike last year, she got caught. She did, however, hold on for second, 1¾ lengths in front of third-place Sottsass (19-1). Waldgeist's winning time of 2:31.97 was the slowest in six years, but it was still good enough to give trainer André Fabre a record eighth win in the Arc – and his first in 13 years.
“I always hope for the very best when I run in the Arc,” Fabre said. “Waldgeist carried my highest expectation. I'm very proud that he managed to beat such a fantastic mare. What can I say? I'm delighted.”
So what is next for Waldgeist? Probably not the Breeders' Cup Turf, for which this win qualified him.
“He has done over the years a huge job traveling from one end of the world to the other, running against top competition in the top races,” von Boetticher said. “He is after all a living being and not a machine. Therefore you should not exhaust a living being. This is about as much as we could all hope him to do.”
Although she is expected to move next to the broodmare stage of her career, Enable was not formally retired Sunday. At least not immediately. Grimthorpe kept the door slightly ajar for another race – maybe the British Champion Stakes or the Breeders' Cup Turf – while also offering a valedictory.
“The expectation is so enormous with these things,” Grimthorpe said. “The wave of good will and good wishes we all had was just unbelievable. Therefore, it's not quite what we hoped. But how could we complain? She's been just an unbelievable filly. We love her to death. We don't love her any less now.”
Post scripts from Arc weekend
Expect Prix de l'Opéra winner Villa Marina (14-1) to take the Breeders' Cup up on its win-and-you're-in offer to race next month in the Filly & Mare Turf. “If she is well, she is a big probability to go,” trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias said. “We have to talk about it with the owner (Dario Hinojosa). It's the only race. Otherwise she goes to the stud.” Now 16-1 at Bet365 in the U.K. to win at Santa Anita (Sistercharlie is a consensus 2-1 favorite), Villa Marina held on for a short-neck victory in the 1¼-mile, $549,000 Group 1 race that was one of five Breeders' Cup qualifiers Sunday at ParisLongchamp. Trainer Aidan O'Brien said that runner-up Fleeting (19-1) was also a strong possibility to go to California. O'Brien, however, lost Goddess (25-1) to what proved to be a fatal injury during the race.
In spite of a third-place finish Saturday on yielding turf in the 1¼-mile $219,600 Group 2 Prix Dollar, Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby said that 3-year-old Line Of Duty will race in the Breeders' Cup Mile. “The hustle and the bustle; those type of races suit him,” Appleby said. “We were confident coming into (Saturday), but that ground was too soft. He's gone and shown his class by putting up another solid run. For me he's booked his ticket to America.” Since he won last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs, the colt sired by Galileo is winless in five starts with three consecutive third-place finishes. Line Of Duty opened in European futures markets at odds of 16-1 to win next month's Mile with Bricks And Mortar and Circus Maximus the 5-1 co-favorites.
After closing to win Sunday in the one-mile $439,200 Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, Albigna (4-1) qualified for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. But trainer Jessica Harrington said Santa Anita was no better than a maybe for the filly bred and owned by Maria Niarchos and her family. “I have no idea,” she said. “The Breeders' Cup is very close to Maria's heart. We'll talk about that after the dust has settled here.” Albigna is 12-1 in European futures for the Breeders' Cup, according to Oddschecker; two-time English group winner Daahyeh is the 5-1 favorite. Pacesetting runner-up Marieta (5-1) will not be making the trip to the Breeders' Cup, trainer Mauricio Delcher-Sánchez.
Fabre said that $439,200 Group 1 Jean-Luc Lagardère winner Victor Ludorum (3-2) would not go to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. But third-place Armory (2-1) is a distinct possibility. “It's possible,” O'Brien said after the sweeping, one-turn mile. “He would like nicer ground, which he would get there. Soft ground (Sunday) probably wasn't ideal, but he's in good form. If he's in good form come that time, he will definitely be considered.” Before Sunday's race Armory was 10-1 in European markets for the Breeders' Cup with Christophe Clément's Grade 1 winner Decorated Invader the 8-1 favorite.
Neither the winner nor the beaten favorite from the $384,300 Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye may show up for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Glass Slippers (12-1) led the whole way to win the straight, five-furlong race, but owner Terry Holdcroft of Bearstone Stud said “this was probably her last race this season.” After Baataash (9-10) finished 14th in the field of 16, trainer Charles Hills said, “It's a long way now. He never really rated a gallop (Sunday). We'll see how he comes back in a couple weeks.” Baataash had been a nearly 9-5 favorite at Bovada to win the Turf Sprint. O'Brien said runner-up So Perfect (27-1) and 10th-place Fairyland (18-1) might make the trip to California.
Even though she is owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Barbaro fame, Prix de la Forêt winner One Master (3-1) will not be going to the Breeders' Cup. “California is too firm,” trainer William Haggas said. “She'll probably go to Ascot in two weeks' time (for the British Champion Sprint Stakes), and that will probably do it this year.” One of three fillies facing nine males, One Master outlasted City Light (5-2) by a half-length in the seven-furlong, $384,300 Group 1 race that was not a Breeders' Cup qualifier – but did serve as a prep for three-time Mile winner Goldikova. Haggas said that the Jacksons are leaning toward having One Master race on in 2020. “They keep telling us they're getting on in years, and they haven't got time to breed,” Haggas said. “I think that's nonsense. But if they'd like to keep her in training I'd be delighted.”
Ron Flatter's weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. It appears more frequently during coverage of big races. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google and Stitcher.