Frankie Dettori insists the pressure is off as he prepares to bid for racing history again aboard Enable in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – 12 months on from what he describes as the worst disappointment of his career.
John Gosden’s brilliant mare will face a maximum of 15 opponents at ParisLongchamp, after Aidan O’Brien’s Investec Derby hero Serpentine was the only further entry at Wednesday’s supplementary stage.
Enable failed to complete an unprecedented Arc hat-trick last year, having to settle for second when agonisingly reeled in on rain-softened ground by Waldgeist deep inside the final furlong.
But as the Italian jockey prepares to try again on Sunday, against a field set to contain O’Brien’s dual Classic-winning filly Love and Gosden’s own three-time Ascot Gold Cup hero Stradivarius, he explains last year’s deflating experience is helping to keep him calm.
“We have already achieved something historic by winning the King George for a third time,” he said, reflecting on the six-year-old’s successful 2020 campaign to date.
“Frankly, the pressure involved is less than last year, and it’s not because there will be fewer people in Paris (during Covid-19 crowd restrictions).
“It’s because we have already experienced disappointment. The three hours which followed last year’s defeat were the worst in my entire professional career, and I think that Enable was similarly downcast.”
As for the task ahead this time, Dettori is mindful again of the challenge of anticipated soft ground – and respectful of the opposition.
“I’m praying that we will get drawn somewhere between one and eight,” he said.
“Rain is forecast, and the ground will most likely be heavy (but) I hope that we won’t experience extremes of going, as happened last year.
“There are two horses that like to go to the front – Serpentine and Sovereign.
“So taking up a good position will be ‘de rigueur’.
“The ground is a very important factor, and Enable has already shown that she can handle it.
“It’s a big plus – a bit like the (7lb) filly’s allowance that Love will be receiving.
“She will be coming into the Arc de Triomphe a bit like Enable did as a three-year-old, but having trodden a different path.”
Dettori predicts ground conditions will play a major part in everyone’s tactics, and may not in particular be to Love’s advantage.
“I hold her in high esteem, like everyone else,” he added.
“I have spoken with my colleagues and racing analysts – they say that a heavy track could count against Love, because her low-to-the-ground, fast action is better suited to good ground.
“Genuine heavy ground will turn the Arc into a stamina test – that will play to Stradivarius’ strengths – and, on the contrary, the distance may prove a bit long for Persian King, although anything trained by Andre Fabre warrants respect.
“There are other horses which shouldn’t be underestimated (too), such as Sottsass. He hasn’t had a hard campaign and boasts prior experience in the Arc de Triomphe (in third last year).”
O’Brien added Serpentine to his team at a cost of 72,000 euros, after being pleased with his first run since his runaway triumph at Epsom.
Serpentine blew away the cobwebs on his first public outing for 71 days when fourth to stablemate Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris over the Arc course and distance two and a half weeks ago.
Mogul, Japan, Sovereign and Love complete the Ballydoyle trainer’s raiding party.
Fabre is the leading Arc trainer with eight victories and he looks to a ninth with Persian King, who will be stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time.
He won the Prix du Moulin from Pinatubo over a mile on his latest start, and it has been announced Persian King will stand at the Haras D’Etreham Stud next year.
Other leading fancies include two more home hopes, In Swoop and Raabihah.
A further 0.9 millimetres of rain fell at the track in the last 24 hours, making a total of 14.4mm so far this week, with the going reported to be very soft and an unsettled forecast before the weekend.