Breeders' Cup International Scouting Report: Loves Only You

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October 31st, 2021

The complete Breeders’ Cup International Scouting Report, covering Friday and Saturday, will be available on early this week. Here is a sample featuring the top contender from Team Japan, Loves Only You.

A classic winner at three, Loves Only You lost her way at four, but she’s better than ever at age five with world-class form versus males. She was cross-entered to the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) and Turf (G1) during Monday’s pre-entry stage, but reportedly will stick with her first preference to tackle fellow distaffers. That’s the wiser spot as she aims to score a Breeders’ Cup breakthrough for a Japanese-based horse.

Trainer Yoshito Yahagi has already succeeded on the world stage. In 2016, he dispatched Real Steel – a full brother to Loves Only You – to capture the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night. In 2019, his Lys Gracieux took Australia’s prestigious Cox Plate (G1) en route to Japanese Horse of the Year Honors. Yahagi also trains last year’s Japanese Triple Crown champion, Contrail.

Loves Only You, who herself added to Yahagi’s international resume in Hong Kong, has Breeders’ Cup-winning Hall of Famers on both sides of her pedigree. As a blueblood daughter of Deep Impact, she counts Sunday Silence as her paternal grandsire. She is also a direct female-line descendant of Mile legend Miesque, who factors as her third dam (great-granddam). Loves Only You is out of the Storm Cat mare Loves Only Me, herself a half to European champion juvenile filly Rumpelstiltskin (the dam of Group 1 star Tapestry).

Beginning her career with a four-race winning streak, Loves Only You rapidly climbed the class ladder from newcomers’ race, to allowance, listed stakes, and the 2019 Japanese Oaks (G1). In that about 1 1/2-mile fillies’ classic, she went off as the slight 3-1 favorite in a deep cast, and finished with a flourish in a stakes-record 2:22.8 at Tokyo. Loves Only You collared Curren Bouquetd’or, the eventual runner-up in that year’s Japan Cup (G1), and back in third was future multiple Group 1 celebrity Chrono Genesis.

Love Only You then commenced a losing streak. Tendon inflammation ruled her out of her initial fall target, the Shuka Sho (G1), but she was ready to resume in Kyoto’s Queen Elizabeth 2 Cup (G1) in November 2019. Favored over older distaffers despite her hiccup, she took up a prominent spot in the main body of the field behind a big leader and steadily ground her way into third. Loves Only You fared best of the sophomores, beaten about 1 1/2 lengths by champion Lucky Lilac, who would defeat males in the following spring’s Osaka Hai (G1).

Shipped for the 2020 Dubai World Cup night card that ended up being scrapped by COVID, Loves Only You had her spring program altered in the aftermath. She made her reappearance instead in the Victoria Mile (G1). That trip proved too sharp for her as she checked in a non-threatening seventh behind the great Almond Eye, who blazed in 1:30.6.

Loves Only You wheeled right back in what figured to be an easier spot, the about 1 1/4-mile Naruo Kinen (G3) versus males, only to be floored by the 32-1 longshot Perform a Promise in a photo. The 4-5 favorite, Loves Only You appeared poised to go by in the stretch, but she hung alongside her eight-year-old rival and lost on an unlucky head bob. Connections believed that she still wasn’t quite right after her fruitless round trip to Dubai.

After her summer holiday, Loves Only You returned in last fall’s Fuchu Himba (G2) and again lost as the favorite. She didn’t act on the yielding course at Tokyo, and wound up an uncharacteristically one-paced fifth.

That nevertheless moved her forward for another crack at Kyoto’s QE2. Adding blinkers, Loves Only You offered a strong rally in third, again to repeat winner Lucky Lilac, but just missing by a grand total of two necks. Her four-year-old campaign ended on a low note when 10th in the Arima Kinen (G1) behind her much-improved old foe, Chrono Genesis.

Loves Only You finally regained the winning thread in the Feb. 14 Kyoto Kinen (G2) over males. Quickening best in the about 1 3/8-mile affair, the 4-5 favorite scored by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths.

In a more productive trip to Dubai for the Mar. 27 Sheema Classic (G1), Loves Only You finished an excellent third to global superstar Mishriff and Chrono Genesis. She didn’t need the blinkers anymore either. Loves Only You muscled through the pack, scrimmaging with Chrono Genesis, as Mishriff overtook the Japanese mares – but not by much.

While edged by two necks, Loves Only You pulled well clear of Godolphin’s fourth-placer Walton Street (who’s in the Turf). That gives her collateral form with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), since Chrono Genesis was a fine seventh in Paris, and Walton Street would place third in a German Group 1, one spot behind eventual Arc upsetter Torquator Tasso.

Loves Only You backed up that effort by capturing Hong Kong’s QEII Cup (G1) at Sha Tin, spearheading a Japanese superfecta. The cutback to about 1 1/4 miles was no problem for the now-mature five-year-old, who outkicked last year’s Fillies’ Triple Crown champion, Daring Tact, and held off Group 1 veteran Glory Vase. Another old stager, Kiseki, was fourth.

Earmarked for the Breeders’ Cup, Loves Only You used the Aug. 22 Sapporo Kinen (G2) as her about 1 1/4-mile stepping stone. Although she could not peg back younger champion Sodashi, the celebrated white filly who pulled off a tactical coup, Loves Only You posted a field-best final sectional of :35.1 to come up three-quarters of a length short.

If Loves Only You duplicates her form from Dubai or Hong Kong, she would be a serious win threat. That has been the rub with her compatriots who have tried the Filly & Mare Turf in recent years. Red Desire (fourth in 2010) and Nuovo Record (11th in 2016) both ran below their top international form.

But Loves Only You has a more persuasive case to perform up to standard than they did. And given the strength in depth of the turf scene in Japan, it’s only a matter of time before the right shipper prevails in the Breeders’ Cup.

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