As the end of Loves Only You’s storied racing career approaches and the next chapter of her life beckons, trainer Yoshito Yahagi has his eyes firmly fixed on Sunday’s (12 December) HKD$30 million Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin, hopeful of a fairy tale end for his globetrotting mare.
“I’m just concentrating on her race in Hong Kong, so I don’t feel sad at the moment but probably after the race I will be sad,” Yahagi said.
Retiring with seven wins from 15 starts (before Sunday’s race), Loves Only You has savoured top-level victories in Japan, the United States and Hong Kong. She also boasts a close-up third in Dubai and following her final foray, she will be sent to Northern Farm, south of Sapporo in Japan, for broodmare duties.
With a Breeders’ Cup success under her belt last month, Loves Only You can join an at elite club at Sha Tin with victory by becoming the fifth horse to complete the QEII Cup and Hong Kong Cup double in the same year after Jim And Tonic (1999), Vengeance Of Rain (2005), Designs On Rome (2014) and Win Bright (2019).
“I’m so glad we made history because a Japanese horse had never won the race (Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, 2200m), but we were always thinking those tough races in America that our Japanese horses still had a chance, so I’m glad we won at the Breeders’ Cup,” Yahagi said.
Undefeated over 2000m at Sha Tin, she nailed a sublime win over Glory Vase, Daring Tact and Kiseki in April to lead home a Japanese-trained first four in the FWD QEII Cup.
“After we won at the Breeders’ Cup, we decided that this was going to be the final run of her career,” Yahagi said.
Yuga Kawada – who guided her to Breeders’ Cup glory – will again be in the plate.
“I went to win and we prepared this horse so well at the races – I’m so glad to make history with a Japanese horse to win at the Breeders’ Cup,” Kawada said.
Earlier this week on Wednesday, 8 December at Sha Tin, Kawada took Loves Only You through a 1200m gallop on the dirt, clocking 1m 16.6s (30.0, 24.5, 22.1).
“I think barrier four is a good draw for her,” the rider said.
November proved a big month for Yahagi, who savoured his maiden Group 1 Japan Cup (2400m) triumph with the (Japanese) Triple Crown-winning Contrail.
“This horse is a very special horse for me, he has a new life as a stallion now and we’re looking forward to seeing him do an excellent job in the future,” Yahagi said.
Yahagi has been training since 2004 and boasts Group 1 wins in Japan, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, United States and Australia.
Earlier on the card, Stay Foolish lines up in the HKD$20 million Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) for Yahagi and partners with Vincent Ho from gate four.
The six-year-old is two-time winner including once at Group 2 level. This will be his sixth attempt in Group 1 company with his previous best effort at the top-level returning third place in the Hopeful Stakes (2000m) of 2017.