Stablemates promise race to savour

Enable v Cracksman the big match in 2018

Our Big Picture stars this month, wonderfully captured by George Selwyn, have a number of things in common. Both are three-year-olds, race for their breeder and were sired by horses that retired to stud in the same year. They are also both trained, expertly, by John Gosden.

Cracksman’s official rating of 130 puts him 2lb clear of Enable. That might seem somewhat unfair on the filly, who has amassed five Group 1 wins

Enable and Cracksman are not just the best two thoroughbreds in the country, but Europe as well. Despite persistent media arguments for the filly and colt to meet on the racecourse this year, their handler managed to devise campaigns that kept them apart. It will almost certainly be a different story in 2018, for the two stars stay in training and surely must meet outside of Clarehaven Stables. If it happens, it promises to be a spectacular encounter.

Cracksman’s official rating of 130, a result of his awesome performance on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot, puts him 2lb clear of Enable. That might seem somewhat unfair on the filly, who has amassed five (consecutive) Group 1 wins compared to Cracksman’s one, yet it reflects the season’s most outstanding performance by a horse at the top level, with the promise of plenty more to come.

At the TBA AGM earlier this year, I talked to Anthony Oppenheimer, Cracksman’s breeder and owner, and suggested that his colt had received a less than first-rate ride at the Curragh in the Irish Derby, in which he finished a narrow second to Capri. Oppenheimer disagreed, explaining that jockey Pat Smullen told him the horse was still a work in progress and would get better throughout the season. How right they were.

It is racing’s good fortune that the two sporting owners, Oppenheimer and Enable’s breeder Khalid Abdullah, have decided to resist the temptation to cash in their chips and walk away from the table. Each is worth millions and, leaving aside the argument about top-class horses having to show their ability at four, has little left to prove, particularly the filly.

Clever campaigning sees Enable and Cracksman emerge from the current season with their reputations fully intact, which is something racing’s PR machine must be grateful for. Now the race is on to host the showdown of showdowns next year.

The move into November sees the National Hunt season move up a notch and one man hoping to continue his progress is Sam Twiston-Davies, stable jockey to Paul Nicholls.

Still only 25, Twiston-Davies is now in his tenth season in the saddle and his trajectory suggests a challenge for the jockeys’ title is now a distinct possibility. Yet the jockey himself is not thinking in those terms, concentrating instead on building and improving on last season’s tally.

“Me and Paul, I think, are stronger this season than previous seasons,” Twiston-Davies tells Chris Cook. “Although we had 170 winners last season, we still had our ups and downs. January was quiet. I think we’ve learned to deal with the good days and the bad days as a team.”

He continues: “I know how to manage the days when things don’t go quite so right. Because obviously it’s racing, we’re not always going to have winners every day. You learn how to deal with each other and I hope now, going into this season, we’re in a better place than ever.”

I’m sure readers will notice a change to the look of some of the pages in this month’s magazine and we will continue to implement a fresh design over the coming months. The excellent response to the recent reader survey has bolstered our ambition to expand and enhance our coverage and we are delighted to welcome Longines into this issue.

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