Gosden calm as Arc history beckons

London (AFP) –


Trainer John Gosden says his nerves are steady before he watches stable stars Enable and Stradivarius bid for racing history in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday.

The Englishman is bidding for his fourth victory in the past six runnings, with Enable attempting to become the first horse to win for a third time.

If either Enable or Stradivarius wins in Paris this weekend, it would be the first triumph for a six-year-old, although 1932 victor Motrico is the oldest winner, at seven.

"They are not excited yet, it is a bit early for them," Gosden told AFP. "My nerves are all right. I am ticking along at the moment just going through the usual week routine.

"Let's hope we all head over there for the weekend and the race takes place. The world is very much ifs and buts at the moment, these are challenging times for everyone."

Sadly if either win they will not be returning to the usually packed grandstands at Longchamp but a smattering of at most 1,000 spectators due to coronavirus restrictions.

"The horses might actually appreciate the fact there are hardly any spectators on the course," said Gosden, who is confident his horses are mature and battle-hardened

"They know their game, they are both very expressive characters and know their own minds," he said. "They carry themselves well and they enjoy their training and their racing."

Enable's owner, Saudi Arabia's Prince Khalid Abdullah, took the decision to keep Enable in training after she finished second in last year's Arc. Usually horses of her class are retired for breeding purposes.

- 'A fantastic ride' -

Gosden said keeping her mind on the job had not proved a problem.

"She is a phenomenal athlete and has great mental strength," he said. "She is in the zone when racing.

"She is like all great athletes. What separates them from the ordinary ones is being strong-minded."

Heavy rain in the French capital has propelled Enable to favourite ahead of Aidan O'Brien's English 1000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks winner Love.

More wet weather could dampen Stradivarius's prospects, although stamina will be the least of his worries after winning three Ascot Gold Cups and a record four Goodwood Cups.

"It could be a tall order for Stradivarius if it is bottomless ground but Enable handles it," said Gosden.

The 69-year-old trainer admits he and Frankie Dettori got the tactics wrong last year in letting Enable chase the leader Ghaiyyath, which left little in the tank when Waldgeist pounced late on.

However, at the same time he does not want a repeat of this year's Epsom Derby, when O'Brien's outsider Serpentine was allowed to tear away up front and the favourites failed to reel him in.

"You have to be wary of a couple of Aidan O'Brien's runners' habit of haring off in front," he said.

"You have got to be careful you don't end up trying to chase them down from the start but alternatively you don't want to give them 20 lengths a la Serpentine in the Derby."

Whatever the outcome on Sunday, Gosden says it has been a privilege to train two horses of such ability at the same time.

They have won more than £12 million ($15 million) in prize money, Enable has never finished outside the first three in 18 races while Stradivarius has failed to make the frame on only two occasions in 24 starts.

"It has been a fantastic ride having those two through to six," he said.

"They have won so many Group Ones and Enable has lost only two of them, one when she was not fully fit (the Eclipse Stakes this year) and the other in the Arc last year she went a bit hard.

"I have been very lucky."