Sunday's Group 1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's premier Thoroughbred race, took a jolt in the final entry stage Thursday as Irish filly Love was withdrawn because of expected soft ground.
Through much of the season, the 3-year-old daughter of Galileo was held favorite to deny Enable a third victory in the iconic race at Longchamp in Paris. But with the turf already sodden and more rain in the forecast, trainer Aidan O'Brien said he "didn't have much choice" other than to withdraw Love.
"I'd imagine Love will now go for the Breeders' Cup Turf, which I think is a $6 million race this year," O'Brien told Racing Post. "Japan and Hong Kong could be considered after that. We'll discuss it with the lads (Love's owners) but I'd imagine the Breeders' Cup will be the priority now. It's one of the biggest grass races in the world."
The purse for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf actually is $4 million. Still, the program O'Brien outlined could be quite lucrative for the Coolmore "lads".
The Group 1 Japan Cup Nov. 29 at Tokyo offers a purse of nearly $6 million ($2.7 million to the winner), with a winner's bonus of $3 million if that horse also has won the Breeders' Cup Turf in the same year. The purse for the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup Dec. 13 at Sha Tin Racecourse is HK$28 million or about $3.6 million.
Love's withdrawal leaves Enable as a solid favorite in antepost wagering to repeat her victories from 2017 and 2018. Last year's threepeat bid was turned back in the final 100 meters as Waldgeist ran by Enable to secure the win.
Enable, picture Liesl King
Enable, a 6-year-old daughter of Nathaniel from the Sadler's Wells mare Concentric, was bred by her owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms. She has won 15 of 18 races, including the memorable 2018 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs, where she held off Magical by 3/4 length just four weeks after the Arc triumph.
Jockey Frankie Dettori, who has ridden many of the great ones over the past few decades, adores Enable above all others and trainer John Gosden doesn't mind her too much, either.
The shakeup in the lineup also moves up Stradivarius, Europe's pre-eminent stayer over the past three years, who steps back to this 1 1/2-miles distance for his eager owner-breeder, Bjorn Nielsen. Dettori had been Stradivarius' constant companion through that run but willingly turns over the reins to Olivier Peslier, a four-time Arc winner.
O'Brien and Coolmore are not without chances even absent Love. The lads still field four -- Investec Derby winner Serpentine, Mogul, Japan and Sovereign. Mogul won the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, the main local prep for the Arc, Sept. 13 with In Swoop, Gold Trip and Serpentine second through fourth. That race was contested over turf rated "good," lessening its utility as a predictor of Sunday's outcome.
Serpentine has raced only once since posting a shocking victory in the Investec Derby. After opening a huge lead in that race, the Galileo colt just kept running and was 5 1/2 lengths clear at the finish. O'Brien expressed satisfaction the Grand Prix de Paris showing off a long layoff was just what Serpentine needed for the Arc. The colt, however, is not likely to get loose on the lead at Longchamp as he did at Epsom.
Japanese racing interests have been chasing an Arc victory futilely for some two decades and their hopes this year may be at low ebb, hinging on Deirdre. The 6-year-old Harbinger mare had a breakthrough last summer, winning the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, but has not been able to replicate that. In a masterpiece of irony, the Coolmore entry named Japan will be ridden Sunday by legendary Japanese jockey Yutaka Take.
Other prospects in the 15-horse field include the aforementioned In Swoop, winner of the Group 1 Deutches Derby at Hamburg in July; Sottsass, winner of the 2019 Prix du Jockey Club or French Derby and third in last year's Arc; and Persian King, a 4-year-old Kingman colt who has won three of his last four starts and exits a victory in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on Arc Preview Day.
The Arc is supported by five other races, all Group 1 affairs. The Arc and four others are Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races.