Although the logical favorite in Saturday’s Oaks (G1) after romping in the 1000 Guineas (G1), Love reached new heights at Epsom with a nine-length rout in stakes-record time. Aidan O’Brien’s eighth Oaks heroine finished the about 1 1/2-mile classic in 2:34.06, shaving .07 off the former stakes mark set by a certain Enable in 2017.
Love is expected to tackle Enable directly, with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) the major goal for both.
“You would have to think about the Arc in the autumn,” O’Brien said from home in Ireland, his travel to Epsom made inadvisable by the pandemic protocols.
“We know what 3-year-old fillies can do in the Arc. We would definitely have to think about it. I guess it will all depend on how she comes out of today and whether she has a midsummer break now or gets in another run and has a break after that, but the Arc has to be a definite possibility.”
One measure of Love’s ability is the fact that the usually laconic Ryan Moore offered several interesting postrace comments.
“She was exceptional today,” her rider said, “and hopefully she has got plenty to look forward to in the future. She would be a threat to anything.
“She wasn’t stopping at all. She actually got down to the rail and picked up again. She was very impressive. She is very good – very, very good.”
The stage was set for a fast time thanks to a pair of pacesetters overdoing it up front. Tiempo Vuela, stablemate of second choice Frankly Darling from the John Gosden yard, tore off with Ballydoyle’s pace factor Passion, and the two bounded far clear of the rest. They were spent upon straightening for home, and the field caught up. Passion briefly picked up the baton from Tiempo Vuela, who stopped and ended up tailed off. Then another O’Brien, Ennistymon, swooped past.
But Love was traveling with ominous ease, and the daughter of Galileo asserted in short order. Ennistymon held second to complete the exacta for the Coolmore supersire.
Galileo’s greatest son, Frankel, sired the next two home. Frankly Darling couldn’t pick up as effectively as she had when beating Ennistymon in the Ribblesdale (G2) and settled for third, three-quarters of a length adrift of her table-turning rival. Another five lengths back came Queen Daenerys, followed by Passion, Bharani Star, Gold Wand, and Tiempo Vuela.
Love became the 49th filly to turn the Guineas/Oaks double. O’Brien was responsible for the prior filly to accomplish the feat, Minding (2016), also by Galileo.
Because Love is a full sister to Peach Tree, winner of last year’s Stanerra (G3) at 1 3/4 miles, and fellow Group 3 vixen Flattering who was fourth in the 2018 Park Hill (G2), she would be a fascinating contender in the St Leger (G1). The last to sweep the Guineas, Oaks, and St Leger – the Fillies’ Triple Crown – was Oh So Sharp (1985).
Aside from Coolmore’s likely predilection for having a colt win the Leger, the timing from that grueling final classic on Sept. 12 to the Arc on Oct. 4 isn’t favorable.
“The St Leger comes three weeks or a month before the Arc,” O’Brien noted, “so would it be too tough for a filly to do that and then go on to the Arc? I don’t know, but I suppose we will see how she trains and what the lads want to do.”
Moreover, Love would have a more beneficial stepping stone in the Irish Champion (G1), also Sept. 12, at Leopardstown. In the interim, the July 18 Irish Oaks (G1) is the next possible target.
Love was among the leading juvenile fillies of 2019, winning the Moyglare Stud (G1) and Silver Flash (G3) and placing a close third in the Fillies’ Mile (G1). But the blaze-faced chestnut has improved this term. Dramatically reversing form with Fillies’ Mile victress Quadrilateral in the Guineas, she was spectacular on the step up in trip in the Oaks.
“She seemed to grow a leg when she went the extra half-mile today,” said Paul Smith, son of co-owner Derrick Smith.
A homebred for the Coolmore principals Michael Tabor, Smith, and Mrs. John Magnier, Love was produced by the Pivotal mare Pikaboo, who is also the dam of multiple Group 2 scorer Lucky Kristale. Pikaboo is a three-quarter sister to multiple Group 2 winner Arabian Gleam (by Pivotal’s son Kyllachy) from the family of Don’t Forget Me, hero of the 2000 Guineas (G1)/Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) in 1987.
Smith paid tribute to Galileo, now the sire of four Oaks winners, Was (2012) and Forever Together (2018) along with Minding and Love.
“Galileo is phenomenal. We are so lucky to have him, so blessed every year he turns out these champions. He is an honor to be involved with.”
Not long afterward, Galileo would make history by siring a record fifth Derby winner in Serpentine. His front-running upset also made O’Brien the all-time leading trainer in Derby history with eight wins.