THERE is no 'I' in Team Enable.
Behind the glitz and glam of racing's first lady there are two hard-working heroes in Imran Shahwani and Barry O’Dowd, stalwarts of the John Gosden yard.
Shahwani, 35, arrived in Newmarket from Pakistan in his early 20’s and has worked for the champion trainer ever since, while senior assistant O’Dowd has been part of the furniture at Clarehaven Stables for two decades.
They're both vital cogs in the well-oiled Gosden machine that has helped Enable scale heights few horses have reached, and tomorrow she could become first ever to win three Arcs.
Her groom and work rider Shahwani perhaps knows her more intimately than anyone else – but he was far from a natural when he started out.
He joked: “When I first started I wasn’t the best rider, I used to fall off on the gallops every day!
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“The boss, who is an absolute gentleman and has always looked after me, used to spend an hour teaching me to ride on ponies after third lot each day.
"Now I get to ride the best horse in the world.”
And he takes care of her every need, too. After all, someone has to do the dirty work, not that it feels like that to Shahwani.
He said: “I’ve looked after her since she arrived in the yard as a baby. When she was a two-year-old she was a big baby, but she has always been easy to take care of.
“She enjoys being brushed and she is a lovely, easy ride. She is a friend to me, she knows me and I know her. Though to be honest, if you give her enough carrots and polos she would be anyone’s friend!
“She loves cantering, she loves going out every morning, she loves doing what she’s doing.
“And she loves the attention. People always come out to watch her exercise and she knows they are there for her.”
He continued: “I start work at 3am and I always make half an hour at the start of the day for her, to brush her and give her a pick of grass and spend some time with her.
“She is so special, not just for me but for everyone. I won’t ever have another one like her, she’s a once in a lifetime horse. I’m so proud to look after her and I know I’m very lucky.”
That’s a view shared by O’Dowd, who has helped prepare the likes of Stradivarius, Golden Horn and Kingman to win big races around the world. But Enable is unique.
O’Dowd said: “She’s been with us for a long time, so it’s fair to say we have got to know each other very well over the years.
“She is an amazing racemare, she has a will of iron. She wants to be the best, she is a real athlete and competitor and she is never happier than when she is out exercising, she just wants to please you every day.
“As a person she is lovely. She is such a good-looking mare and she’s got those gorgeous big ears.
“In the box some mornings she can be playful, let’s put it that way. I’ll go in first thing each day to feel her legs before her exercise and she will stand there as good as gold while she’s eating her breakfast.
“Other days she will have a little buck and a squeal and you think ‘maybe I won’t go in quite yet’!
“Once she has exercised and she has been checked over and can have a pick of hay, she is very chilled out. She loves cuddles and as Imran says, she loves her polo mints. Dettori must drive her mad, mind, because whenever he’s here he won’t leave her alone!”
And what chance heading into this year’s race?
The great mare suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Waldgeist last October but is hot favourite this time with big rival Love forced out of contention by the heavy ground at Longchamp.
Shahwani said: “Last year when she was second it was tough, but it wasn’t her day. She’s in very good form this year and I think this could be her time.
“I’ll arrive early Saturday morning with her and give her a lead out to stretch her legs when we arrive and then she’ll have an easy day. She has already made history, she is already a star. If she could do it, it would be unbelievable.”
Win, lose or draw, O’Dowd reckons she has secured her place in racing’s hall of fame.
He said: “My wife and I usually have a big party at our house with all the stable staff on Arc day, we normally have up to 35 or 40 people so it’s going to be sad we can’t have that this year.
“Last year when she was second it was obviously disappointing, but I was more disappointed for her. Expectations were high, but the ground was bad and they went very hard in the race.
“I got a bad feeling two furlongs out but the race just fell apart in front of Frankie and he had to go when he did. It was horrible when the winner came and got her in the last 50 yards but she lost nothing in defeat.
“She gets a lot of people very emotional, including me. Frankel was probably the best we’ve ever seen, but for me she isn’t far behind. She’s an all-time great.”
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