By Andy Stephens at York
The first day of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival was almost as electrifying as the thunder and lightning that hit York in the morning but it was the horse who will be the star attraction at the Knavesmire on Thursday who cast the biggest shadow over the afternoon.
Enable has chalked up triumphs in the Oaks, Irish Oaks and King George by an aggregate of 15 lengths and she will start at cramped odds on Thursday to extend her winning sequence at the highest level in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.
Provided all goes well, she will contest the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly on October 1 and her demolition jobs are not encouraging potential rivals to throw their hats in the ring.
After Ulysses had swept to an emphatic victory in the Juddmonte International Stakes he was cut to a best price of 10-1 for the Arc but there was no talk of the four-year-old lining up against Enable for a second time - connections no doubt mindful he had been thumped by her in the King George at Ascot.
Similarly, the chances of Cracksman lining up against her in the French showpiece also look slim - despite the Frankel colt’s runaway six-length success in the Great Voltigeur Stakes prompting him to also be cut to a top price of 10-1 for the feature.
Moments after Sir Michael Stoute had secured a record-breaking sixth success in the Juddmonte, having previously landed it with Shardari (1986), Ezzoud (1993 and 1994), Singspiel (1997) and Notnowcato (2006), he was asked about the filly who had made his stable star look positively ordinary in deep ground at Ascot.
“She’s a machine,” observed the 72-year-old, who has never been one for hyperbole.
The Niarchos family, who own Ulysses, are much keener on a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Stoute must weigh up whether his regally-bred colt heads straight there or also runs in the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot beforehand.
Perhaps Enable’s possible presence will also be an influencing factor.
Ulysses has finished 3121 now in four Group One contests since Royal Ascot and Stoute said: “It’s time to give him a break and work backwards from the Breeders' Cup Turf. The owners are keen to go for that. We'll go home and work it out.
"It all just went so smoothly and there was never a blip. I think it was his best performance to date. He's become a very professional athlete now.
“I’d have prefered if the rain had not come because he’s a beautifully balanced horse and he bounces off top as ground as he has so much rhythm.”
Asked about his six victories in the race, he said: “They’ve all been special but I particularly enjoyed this as we’ve become very fond of this horse. I think he is as good at 12 furlongs, don't forget the King George was run in a swamp, it wasn't ideal conditions for him.”
Ulysses powers ahead of his rivals in the Juddmonte International (PA)
Ulysses boasts a fantastic cruising speed and coasted around on the bridle before picking off Churchill and Barney Roy - the 2000 Guineas one-two - in the closing stages to win by two lengths.
Churchill held off Barney Roy by a neck, with that pair four and a half lengths clear of Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher.
“He was always cantering and when I asked him his response was instant,” Crowley said. “It was a special feeling. He seems to be improving with every run.
“The more I’ve ridden him the more I know what he’s capable of and he seems to be improving.”
That latter remark is also surely applicable to Cracksman, who routed his rivals in what is traditionally a key trial for the St Leger, having previously gone close in the Derby and Irish equivalent.
The son of Frankel would be well worth his place in the St Leger or Arc but Anthony Oppenheimer, his owner, said: "I'm inclined not to run him again this year, he certainly won't go in the St Leger or anything like that, as we have taken him out. It depends on the trainer, if he gets very full of himself we might have to run him.
"But I think we'd rather like to take him into next year and aim for the King George and the Arc, if we're lucky."
Gosden added: "He was only a shell of a horse earlier in the season. We've spaced his races deliberately, whether he runs again I'll discuss with the owner. He won't go for the Leger. We've never thought of going that route. Maybe he could go and win the Leger, but it was never part of this horse's programme.
"He may run again this year, but the main focus is next year.”