July 15, 2024

Loves Only You caps career in Hong Kong Cup thriller

Loves Only You edges Hishi Iguazu in her career finale in the Hong Kong Cup (Hong Kong Jockey Club)

In a rousing rally reminiscent of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), Loves Only You speared between foes in deep stretch to go out a winner in Sunday’s $3.8 million Hong Kong Cup (G1) at Sha Tin. The 8-5 favorite nipped Hishi Iguazu in the all-Japanese exacta, with Russian Emperor a close third.

Trained by Yoshito Yahagi and again ridden by Yuga Kawada, Loves Only You was well placed in fifth behind a pace battle. Ka Ying Star set up shop up front as customary, but Bolshoi Ballet was intent on going forward from post 9, and Mac Swiney moved up to press on the inside. Bolshoi Ballet took the worst of it being hung out wide.

As the early leaders folded in the stretch, the 23-1 Russian Emperor made a bold bid for glory. The ex-Ballydoyle runner, now a Hong Kong local, swept to the fore and threatened to spring the upset. Then Hishi Iguazu burst from the tail of the field on the outside to challenge.

Meanwhile, Loves Only You had been on hold awaiting room. The daughter of Deep Impact got a split between Ka Ying Star and Bolshoi Ballet, but she had work to do to catch Russian Emperor and Hishi Iguazu. As at Del Mar, however, Loves Only You kicked into overdrive in time to prevail, clocking about 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.66 on the good course.

Hishi Iguazu, a short head away at the wire, pulled three-quarters of a length clear of Russian Emperor. British-based Dubai Honour, who had a checkered passage before finding daylight, rattled home for fourth and just missed third by a neck. Tourbillon Diamond closed well in fifth, followed by the troubled Lei Papale, Berlin Tango, Glorious Dragon, Bolshoi Ballet, Ka Ying Star, Panfield, and Mac Swiney.

Loves Only You was noticeably favoring her left hind during the postrace ceremony. According to the stewards’ report, she sustained a laceration on that leg, but was moving sound when examined back at the quarantine facility.

DMM Dream Club’s five-year-old concluded her racing career with a fourth Group 1 laurel, three of them on the international stage, and an overall mark of 16-8-2-3. Loves Only You first stamped her class in the 2019 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1), in a stakes-record 2:22.8 at Tokyo. Although she didn’t regain the top of the podium until this season, she had gone close, including thirds in both the 2019 and 2020 editions of the Queen Elizabeth 2 Cup (G1) at Kyoto.

After starting 2021 with a victory in the Feb. 14 Kyoto Kinen (G2), Loves Only You ran a mighty third to Mishriff and Chrono Genesis in the Mar. 27 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). That first international venture became a harbinger. Loves Only You took her game on the road to Sha Tin to take the Apr. 25 QEII Cup (G1), over the same course and distance as the Hong Kong Cup. Among the vanquished that day was Glory Vase, who captured Sunday’s Hong Kong Vase (G1). Runner-up to champion Sodashi in the Aug. 22 Sapporo Kinen (G2), Loves Only You made history as the first Japanese-based runner to win a Breeders’ Cup trophy.

Loves Only You with her team after the Hong Kong Cup (Hong Kong Jockey Club)

“She’s given me two big presents,” Kawada said, adding that Loves Only You “is the best female horse I’ve ever ridden. I hope she will be a good mother.”

As a direct descendant of Miesque, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) star and influential matron, Loves Only You is eligible to become a successful broodmare as well. She is herself a full sister to 2016 Dubai Turf (G1) hero Real Steel, who was twice classic-placed in Japan, and they are closely related to current multiple Group 3 scorer Terzetto. Loves Only You and Real Steel were produced by the Storm Cat mare Loves Only Me, a half to European champion Rumplestiltskin (dam of Group 1 vixen Tapestry).

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