Aidan O’Brien was left disappointed after Enable roared to an emphatic victory over Sovereign and Japan to secure her record third King George VI and Elizabeth Stakes triumph at Ascot, writes Will Jennings.
The master of Ballydoyle was all that stood between the marvel mare and King George immortality, but Frankie Dettori piloted John Gosden’s mount to a searing victory in splendid isolation to cap an 11th Group One win.
O’Brien had initially entered a three-pronged raid on Ascot with Anthony Van Dyck joining the Ballydoyle squad, until a late blood test saw the 2019 Epsom Derby winner scratched at the eleventh hour.
So it was left to just Japan and Sovereign to dash Enable’s hopes of history, only for the great Dettori to guide his beloved mare to a mud-splattered five and a half length triumph and spark emotional scenes in the rain.
Sovereign was ridden by Charlie Appleby’s No.1 jockey William Buick and was sent out to set the early pace, as Ryan Moore rode second-favourite Japan and tucked in behind Dettori from the off.
Moore stalked his great rival as 2019 Irish Derby winner Sovereign stretched his lead to up to six lengths, with Japan remaining in hot pursuit of Enable throughout.
But Dettori’s mount looked ominously poised and when the red-hot jockey pushed the button she flew off in style, showing her thrilling turn of pace as they turned for home to leave O’Brien’s two rivals in the rear view mirror.
Dettori pulled down his goggles to take a lengthy look behind at his rivals but there was nothing Sovereign and Japan could do, as Buick followed Dettori home with a helpless Moore in third.
The result extended what represents the most emotionally-charged of all of Dettori’s racing partnerships, as he followed up his two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes, Epsom Oaks, Irish Oaks and two Yorkshire Oaks wins on Enable with a record third King George.
The outcome also continued Japan’s mixed season that saw him finish fourth in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and third in the Coral-Eclipse – a head behind Enable at Sandown – while Sovereign was the most impressive of the Ballydoyle horses as he improved on his third-place finish in the Vintage Crop Stakes at the Curragh.
O’Brien has yet to comment on the result and it remains unclear where Japan and Sovereign may head next, with Ballydoyle now without a win in the King George since Highland Reel triumphed with Moore on board in 2016.
And the result also means O’Brien has now sent out 20 horses who have tried and failed to beat Enable, whose 11th top-flight triumph took her even deeper into the terrain of Flat racing greatness.
O’Brien remains on four victories in the race and while Sovereign and Japan failed to make it five, the trainer will no doubt recognise Gosden’s magical mount making it a King George treble in the Ascot rain.