By Andy Stephens
Fillies have a formidable record in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe - just not those trained in Britain. Almost a century after the great race was first run, the tally of successful British female raiders still stands at zero.
Enable is generally 10-11 to make history and halt a barren sequence that dates back to 1920. Having won the Oaks, Irish Oaks, King George and Yorkshire Oaks by an aggregate of 20 lengths she is well qualified to put the record straight.
Nobody has come closer to an elusive first Arc win for a British-trained filly than Ed Dunlop.
His globetrotting wondermare Ouija Board had won the Oaks by seven lengths and added the Irish equivalent before she was a luckless third to Bago in 2004 - she finished with a rattle to be beaten a length and a half under Johnny Murtagh after being well adrift turning for home and encountering trouble in running.
Seven years later Snow Fairy filled the same position for him behind Danedream.
“I should have won with Ouija Board,” Dunlop told Racinguk.com at Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting. “She got too far back and then she flew on the outside. That can happen at Longchamp, especially in the Arc, and I didn’t blame anyone.
“It was another great run by her, like she always did. It had been a brave move by the owner to run - I’d wanted to go for the Prix de l’Opera but he was insistent ‘no, let’s run in the Arc’.”
Ouija Board never ran in the showpiece again but went on to win six more races at the highest level all over the world - earning her connections £3.5 million in prize-money. As a broodmare, she has produced fine horses such as Australia, the Derby winner, and Frontiersman.
Snow Fairy was also a valiant third in the Arc and signed off her memorable career just under a year later with a defeat of Nathaniel, the sire of Enable, and St Nicholas Abbey in the Irish Champion Stakes.
“There were no excuses for Snow Fairy - it was a typically good run by her but she just bumped into an exceptional winner in Danedream,” Dunlop said.
User Friendly and Taghrooda have been among other British-trained fillies to register near-misses in the Arc but the wait for one of them to smash down the door goes on.
The lack of success is even more puzzling when you consider that six of the past nine winners of the race have represented the distaff side of the equine population.
“It [the Arc] favours the three-year-old fillies with their weight allowance,” Dunlop observed. “Why has no English-trained filly won it? I don’t really know. Perhaps it’s maybe the [usual soft] ground or because it comes after a long season for some.”
That seemed to be the case for Salsabil in 1990.Salsabil, pictured here winning the 1000 Guineas, was a disappointment in the 1990 Arc won by Suamarez (Racingfotos)
Trained by Dunlop’s father, John, she looked to have flawless credentials after scoring at the Arc meeting on her final start as a two-year-old and then, at three, winning the Fred Darling, 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, Irish Oaks and Prix Vermeille in successive races.
Salsabil started a short-priced favourite to beat 20 rivals at Longchamp but trailed home tenth. The Hamdan-Al-Maktoum-owned filly never ran again and died six years later.
“Salsabil had a similar profile to Enable, but ran badly. You’d have to ask him [Dunlop Sr] about that one,” Dunlop said.Ed Dunlop, pictured her with the Gold Cup, does not believe Enable should be so short in the betting (Racingfotos)
Will the Newmarket-based trainer be cheering for Enable, trained a mile down the road from him?
“From a British point of view we all hope she wins,” he said. “She’s well drawn and Frankie’s in fantastic form. I’d be surprised if she didn’t win, but is she an odds-on good thing? I’m not sure about that.
“It’s very interesting that Aidan [O’Brien] is running his filly [Winter]. We are all led to believe she had a hiccup going into the race in Ireland last time but the question is whether she will stay. That will be very interesting.”
Nobody said ending 97 years of hurt was going to be easy.