It's Enable vs. the world in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) Oct. 1 at Chantilly and, to all appearances, the world has some catching up to do.
Juddmonte Farms' homebred filly has strung together five straight wins, the last four of them at the group 1 level. She's run over turf rated from firm to soft, so the expected off going shouldn't be an issue. As a 3-year-old filly, she has a big weight swing against the whole field and she already has a dominating win over her main rival in the Arc.
All of that has put the Nathaniel filly at the top of the list for the Arc since mid-summer, and it will be tough to find much better than even odds when Frankie Dettori hops aboard for the day's third race at Chantilly.
Enable, out of the Sadler's Wells mare Concentric, began her triumphant run with a victory in the Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks May 10. Trainer John Gosden then dispatched her to Epsom, where she won the June 2 Investec Oaks (G1) by five lengths, then to the Curragh, where she swept to a dominant win in the Darley Irish Oaks (G1) July 15.
Enable firmed up her already high Arc prospects when she captured the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) at Ascot July 29 against older males. The runner-up in that event, Ulysses, was 4 1/2 lengths behind Enable. The bookmakers have Ulysses as her top rival at Chantilly.
Ulysses, a 4-year-old Galileo (IRE) colt, won the July 8 Coral-Eclipse (G1) at Sandown before his thrashing by Enable, and returned from that to capture the Juddmonte International Stakes (G1) at York Aug. 23. Americans will remember him as the fourth-place finisher in the 2016 Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T) at Santa Anita Park.
Jim Crowley will boot Ulysses out of the inside gate in the Arc, just inside Enable in the No. 2 slot.
Dettori has identified Ulysses as his top competition, but if the top two should falter, the Arc could turn into a scramble with plenty of others ready to pick up the pieces.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien will saddle an accomplished quintet, headed by Winter, a 3-year-old Galileo filly who ran off a string of four consecutive group 1 wins this summer before she yielded to stablemate Hydrangea in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes (G1) in her last outing. She will have to prove she can get the 1 1/2 miles.
O'Brien's bunch also includes Order of St George, third in last year's Arc and the recent winner of the Comer Group International Irish St. Leger (G1). Jockey Ryan Moore hands off Order of St George to Donnacha O'Brien and will ride Winter instead.
O'Brien left globetrotter Highland Reel off the Arc roster, but will send out his 4-year-old full brother Idaho, whose best effort so far was a win in the Hardwicke Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot at the Arc distance of 1 1/2 miles. Idaho returns from a sixth-place finish in the Sword Dancer Stakes (G1T) Aug. 26 at Saratoga Race Course.
Flying well under the radar for the Arc is an international trio—three of the top four finishers from the Qatar Prix Foy (G2), a major Arc prep run over the course and distance Sept. 10.
The Foy winner, Dschingis Secret, carries Germany's hopes for Europe's biggest race and boasts a win in the Longines Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1). Markus Klug trains the 4-year-old son of Soldier Hollow (GB). Cloth of Stars, a 4-year-old Sea The Stars colt trained in France by Andre Fabre for Godolphin, finished second in the Foy to snap a three-race winning streak.
And the soap opera plot that is Japan's long quest to win the Arc continues with Satono Diamond (JPN), a 4-year-old Deep Impact (JPN) colt who finished fourth in the Prix Foy. Satono Diamond is a multiple group 1 winner in Japan and trainer Yasutoshi Ikee said he will benefit from the experience over the Chantilly course. The expected soft ground, however, is not a positive sign for the colt.
Cloth of Stars notwithstanding, France's best hope to win its premier race might be Brametot, winner of the QIPCO Prix du Jockey Club (G1), the French Derby, over the course June 4. The Rajsaman colt, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, has had only one race since that win, when he finished a well-beaten fifth in the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano Haras du Logis Saint-Germain (G2) after he missed the break.
Seventeen are set to go in the Arc.