Trainer John Gosden said he was thrilled as Enable began her bid for a historic third victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with a respectable second in the Group One Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on Sunday.
The six-year-old came to challenge halfway down the straight but the front-running Ghaiyyath held her off to deny Enable and Frankie Dettori a repeat win in the race.
Ghaiyyath, ridden by William Buick, had the advantage of already having raced twice, including an impressive victory in the Coronation Cup last month.
Gosden, though, was delighted with the 2017 and 2018 Arc winner who was narrowly edged out of a third win in the race considered Europe’s most prestigious last year.
“Absolutely thrilled,” he said. “That was a great run first time out.
“We were always wary of a front-running type like Ghaiyyath who is a very good horse.
“It is full steam ahead for the King George [VI Stakes at Ascot on July 25, a race she won in 2017 and 2019].
“This was the perfect platform for her and the King George. She showed she has all her desire and zest. Frankie said he was very happy with her.”
Gosden said it was thanks to Ghaiyyath that Enable had stayed in training.
“It was a deep sense of relief, her performance today.
“It was never really the intention to keep her in training at six but in the Arc last year we went too hard, too soon in chasing Ghaiyyath and we walked the final 200m and got passed.
“That is why she is still in training because we got the tactics wrong,” added the 69-year-old, laughing.
Gosden – whose star has lost just three times in her 16-race career – said he had never talked up her chances of winning the Eclipse as he felt she was at 85 per cent of her full fitness.
“I was very straight about it,” he said. “I find the bookies get very protective at weekends with Frankie [Dettori] with regard to their odds.
“She is a six-year-old and like all of us as we get older we add a bit of weight and it takes longer to lose it.
“She was a bit like Andy Ruiz when he climbed into the ring to defend his title against Anthony Joshua.”
Gosden, who had earlier in the day won his first French Derby with Mishriff, said he would not divulge what weight she had been.
“There was a lady called Dorothy Parker [a US poet] and when she was asked her age, she replied: ‘My age is a number and it is not listed.’
“I will tell you [Enable’s weight] in private if you are interested.”
‘A good spectacle’
Ghaiyyath’s trainer Charlie Appleby was delighted to have claimed the scalp of Enable, although he recognised that his winner was race hardened already this season.
“We have always held Ghaiyyath in high regard and he gained a lot of respect after the Coronation Cup,” said Appleby.
“He had been an emphatic winner in France and Germany but the Coronation Cup gained him British racing fans.
“We have always had immense respect for Enable and she lost nothing in defeat there.
“I am just delighted it was a great race and that is what racing needs.
“It was great to see the young pretender – well he is five but he has really matured mentally and physically – battling up the straight with the Queen of the track.
“A good spectacle and proud to be part of it.”
However, Appleby said he would not be rushing Ghaiyyath back onto the track as races with Enable take their toll.
He was unequivocal as to whether he would want to re-oppose her in the Arc in October.
“I would rather not have to take her on in the Arc.”