The Jane Mangan column: I'll never forget being in Paris to watch Dettori deliver a thrilling victory

The Jane Mangan column: I'll never forget being in Paris to watch Dettori deliver a thrilling victory

Frankie Dettori, on board Enable, celebrates winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last week. Picture: AP Photo/Francois Mori

THERE are moments in everyone’s life when you sit back and say ‘I was there’.

Whether you were present to witness Munster beating the All Blacks, Katie Taylor’s Olympic Gold or even a momentous All-Ireland final, that feeling of witnessing history is unique.

I was fortunate to make the journey to Paris last weekend to watch Enable set the record straight. There were 19 horses competing in last Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, but as the race drew closer, it became glaringly obvious that only two mattered.

As the horses filtered into the parade ring under the new golden grandstand, everyone strained to find the best vantage point to get a proper view of the horses lining up in Europe’s richest race.

Hunting Horn ran his race in the parade ring. Cloth Of Stars was the smallest of the bunch, but the two girls at the back took everything so effortlessly.

Sea Of Class and Enable are very different physical models, but both have rock solid temperaments. Neither turned a hair during the preliminaries, thus I couldn’t find fault with either.

As the jockeys mounted I paid particular attention to Frankie Dettori, whom I deem to be the best rider on the planet and quite likely the best flat jockey I will ever see — he looked like a man playing amongst boys.

He may be an enigmatic character out of the saddle, but once John Gosden gave him the leg up on Enable, he was bulletproof. A man completely focused on the job. A man thriving on pressure. Once the runners had gone to post, I pitched myself on the rail about one furlong from the winning post and just below a big screen waiting patiently for the race to unfold in real time.

The stalls opened and Enable was in prime position. Sea Of Class settled last of the 19 and the pace was solid. Kew Gardens was the first horse beaten, Clincher soon sunk Japanese hopes and Capri began to feel the pinch.

As they turned for home, Enable had clear daylight and was cantering. The leaders gave way and James Doyle began weaving his way through the field like a fox chasing his dinner.

Picture: Healy Racing
Picture: Healy Racing

Two furlongs down Frankie kicked for home. The stands erupted as their queen quickened three lengths clear — surely it’s all over. Then, just as they came thundering past our vantage point at the furlong pole, Enable was tying up, gasping for the finish while Sea Of Class took dead aim at her pray.

Frankie put down his stick and squeezed for one last effort from his tiring partner just as Doyle threw everything at Sea Of Class as she surged down the outside.

Enable’s lead was diminishing fast. I turned to the big screen as the hit the line, she held on!

A huge sense of relief filtered through the racecourse. She’s done it. History has been made. 

Enable first, Sea Of Class second, the third didn’t count. I rush back to the paddock to catch a glimpse of the inevitable famous flying dismount, but while I’m waiting for Enable I hear an almighty cheer go up from the opposite side of the ring.

The crowd show their admiration and gratitude as Sea Of Class returns having gone down like the ultimate warrior. Doyle slips away gaunt and dejected while the filly puts her head down, obviously defeated despite the rapturous reception.

Frankie takes his time returning to the winners' enclosure, soaking up all the adulation from those who paid top dollar to see a superstar. Visibly appreciating how brilliant his partner was to overcome adversity and retain her crown, Dettori waves, salutes and cheers to the crowd like only he can and there it is – he leaps from the irons like a child on springs and embraces his partner in crime, John Gosden.

There’s nothing quite like acknowledging the magnitude of a moment in real time. Knowing that you have seen the best jockey ride the best horse in the world.

Only for Sea Of Class, Enable would have won comfortably and the race wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting.

The enthralling tactical differences between the two competitors combined with the tightest Arc finish in nearly 20 years crowned this iconic event. It’s true what they say — it only takes two to make a great race.

No horse has ever won the Arc three times. Few have even attempted the feat, but were Enable to remain in training and go for the hat-trick in 2019 one thing is for certain — you’ll want to be there!

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