Horse racing is a hard sport to promote effectively in advance, due to the sheer number of variables that can end up changing a race or ruling out individual horses at short notice. So it will always prove difficult, if not impossible, to generate a ‘Mayweather v McGregor’ style clash where anticipation can build in the months prior to the event.
That said, the way this flat season has panned out, there does appear to be one heavyweight clash that is just begging to be staged, even if it means holding our breath right up until declaration day. Right now you have the Aussie champion, Winx, on a winning streak of 20 and Enable, the European champion, who has won her last six, including the Oaks, King George and Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe.
At the time of writing, the plan for Winx is to prepare her for a defence of the Cox Plate before potentially gearing up for a three race campaign in Europe next summer, apparently ‘over a variety of distances’. And as for Enable – in the aftermath of her stunning Arc success yesterday, there seemed to be a strong suggestion from her connections that she was very likely to race on at 4yo, with the ultimate goal being the defence of her Arc title.
In terms of their optimum trip, Winx’s best ever run probably came over 10f when winning last year’s Cox plate (and the longest trip she has been successful at Group 1 level is 11f). Enable, meanwhile, has only contested Group 1s over 12f. However, watch yesterday’s Arc back and one of the notable elements of her display was how keenly she raced deep into the race, before she burst clear of her rivals with a telling turn of foot. It’s hard to believe on this effort that Enable would have any trouble whatsoever stepping back to 10f – and there’s also a chance she might prove to be even better over it.
So the obvious ‘fair’ trip for any clash would surely be 10 furlongs. The obvious races? Given Winx’s plans, it could be any one of the big midsummer 10 furlong races – the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, or the Juddmonte International at York. The prestige of Royal Ascot could make that favourite in terms of where Winx would end up, but given who owns her, perhaps the most likely of the three for Enable would be the Juddmonte International at York. Whatever, maybe in the spring next year when hopefully both horses are on target for the season ahead, connections can pick up the phone and get the race on. It would potentially provide the best Horse Racing match up since Sea Biscuit and War Admiral (and you probably have to be over 90 to remember that one!)
Right now, Timeform have both fillies rated 134, while the Racing Post have Winx’s best effort standing at a Racing Post Rating of 130 and Enable’s at 129 – so it really couldn’t be much closer and with home advantage factored in, Ladbrokes make the match 8/13 Enable and 6/5 Winx should they meet in 2018.
Cracksman decision still wrong…
Inevitably after Enable crossed the line at Chantilly yesterday, Twitter burst into life…
“Cracksman’s amateur race programmers have gone quiet.”
“There’s your Cracksman explanation. Gosden knew he couldn’t beat her.”
Given what happened yesterday, you’d have to say it would have been unlikely that Cracksman would have won the Arc had he contested it. But – that doesn’t mean the decision not to run him was the correct one.
The problem with decisions is you have to base them on the information you have at the time you have to make the call, not with the benefit of hindsight. I remember Tony Blair making this point ad nauseam during the Iraq inquiry. Regardless of what you think of him or his decision making, he was merely asking to be judged on what he knew at the time, NOT based on what everyone knows now.
At the time the Cracksman call was made, there was roughly a 50% chance that Enable would win the Arc and Cracksman probably had around a 20% chance (in fact, that would have turned out to be lower given how many Coolmore horses showed up – I reckon he’d have been around 7/1 or 12.5%). Was it the right call to skip the race given that information at the time? I’d still say no – and even though he probably wouldn’t have won, his owner didn’t even get the pleasure of finding out, which is surely the point of owning racehorses in the first place!
Plus, now there is a chance that they will turn up at Longchamp next year with 8lb more on their back, no Dettori to ride, Enable in opposition and having to give weight away to some talented three year olds. Doesn’t sound like a situation worth waiting a year for to me…