Loves Only You, Marche Lorraine bring Japan first Breeders' Cup wins
Loves Only You
Vin de Garde
It was a long time coming, but after 25 years, Japan has not only landed its first win in the Breeders’ Cup gala, it’s landed two.
This year, Japan sent its biggest team yet to the 38th running of the annual American horseracing extravaganza. Held this year at Del Mar Racecourse north of San Diego, the Breeders’ Cup has evolved into a two-day, 14-race event, with a total USD31 million in prize money.
This year, seven horses from Japan were entered in six of the races. In previous years, 13 horses from Japan had brought nothing better than a fourth place. As of early Sunday morning in Japan, the first three horses having finished second to last in the first race Friday (local time), and last and second to last in the next on Saturday.
Things, however, were about to change.
Japan’s fourth horse up came to the plate at 2 p.m. local time Saturday (6 a.m. Sunday in Japan) in the USD2 million Filly and Mare Turf. Some two minutes later, she brought home the win with a spine-tingling finish and a very fetching name - Loves Only You.
A 5-year-old daughter of the late Deep Impact and already a Grade 1 winner in Japan and Hong Kong, Loves Only You went off as third pick locally and did not disappoint. Her patience and jockey Yuga Kawada’s cool-headedness were key to some gutsy maneuvering in the final meters and a powerful surge that brought the bay mare home a winner half a length ahead of My Sister Nat.
Winning jockey Yuga Kawada, currently second in JRA jockey rankings, allowed himself a rare emotional display immediately following the win. “I am quite overjoyed. I was so excited I don’t really remember what I did the moment we passed the finish post but I may have shot my fist into the air.”
“It was a difficult trip and not how I had imagined it would be, but I think she did her very best. She was able to travel on good ground in the stretch and won decisively,” the 36-year-old Kawada said.
“With this overseas trip, I am so happy to have realized the dreams of those connected with Loves Only You and the dreams of Japan’s fans. I want to express my appreciation to all those on her team. I consider it a great honor to have stood on this stage.”
But the joy for the Japan wasn’t over yet. The Distaff, two races and two horses later, was Japan’s last chance and, again, Japan’s girls had it covered.
Marche Lorraine, a 5-year-old daughter of Triple Crown champion Orfevre, had yet to run in an international Grade 1 event and with little flash in her form, she’d gone to the gate a longshot. But jaws dropped at Del Mar when she too turned in spine-tingler, a photo finish that saw her edge Dunbar Road by a nose under Oishin Murphy.
“It was an amazing day, I couldn’t be happier,” said Murphy, for whom the win was his first Breeders’ Cup victory. “They went very fast on the front end which helped me. … I just followed Jose Ortiz (on the runnerup). He has a lot more experience on dirt than I have. When he wasn’t going early, I knew the fractions were very fast.”
"I tried to ignore her odds and just give her every chance in the run and hopefully she could finish off," the 26-year-old native of Ireland said. "And to be honest, we were obviously a hostage to fortune. I sat out the back, and they went quite quick. We needed them to do that, but it was a brilliant performance."
"I didn't know a whole lot about Marche Lorraine," Murphy admitted. "I ride a lot for Mr. Yahagi in Japan and a fair bit overseas. I've ridden for him in Dubai and Hong Kong. And he doesn't travel unless they have a chance." Murphy has some 340 rides on Japan-trained horses and 68 wins from them.
Surprisingly, the winning trainer of both mares Yoshito Yahagi wasn’t one of the better-known Japanese names at the Breeders’ Cup, such as the pioneering Kazuo Fujisawa, the first to take on challenge back in 1996, or Hideyuki Mori, who has fielded a record eight horses for Japan. Yahagi was taking on the Breeders’ Cup for the very first time.
Yahagi opened his stable at Ritto in 2005 and is currently second for wins amongst JRA trainers. Of his first Breeders’ Cup winner, he said, “To travel overseas and do this well is no easy feat, but I’d thought Loves Only You was the strongest and I brought her to the race with confidence.
“She didn’t have an easy trip and it was difficult getting into position. The race didn’t unfold in any way to her advantage. But still, she was remarkably strong. Yuga Kawada gave her a real gutsy ride and there’s nothing that would make me happier than to have won with him. And, back home, my apprentice jockey Ryusei Sakai just won a graded stakes race (the G2 Keio Hai Nisai Stakes at Tokyo on Saturday) and that surely gave us a boost.”
Of Marche Lorraine’s win, the 60-year-old Yahagi said, “I wasn’t too sure about dirt racing in the United States, but I didn’t think there could be all that much difference in strength. The high pace and her position toward the rear turned out to work in our favor.
“I’d thought that if the pace were high she wouldn’t be able to keep up, but at the far turn she still had a good hold on the reins and I started to think, ‘Just maybe she can win.’ When I watched the slow motion of her crossing the finish line, I saw how very close it how been. I’m so glad we won.
Loves Only You is owned by DMM Dream Club Co. and was bred by Hokkaido’s Northern Farm. She is out of the Storm Cat mare Loves Only Me and clocked 2 minutes 13.87 seconds over fast ground.
The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf win was her third Grade 1 victory in addition to the 2019 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and this year’s Hong Kong Queen Elizabeth II Cup in late April, which followed her third in the Dubai Sheema Classic the month before.
Marche Lorraine, out of the French Deputy mare Vite Marcher, covered the 1,800 meters of dirt in 1 minute 47.67 seconds.
* * *
Jasper Great was first up in the ninth race of 10 on the Friday card and the fourth of the event’s five big races on Friday in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a 1,700-meter test over dirt for 2-year-old colts and geldings.
Slightly slow out of the far inside gate, Jasper Great, an American-bred son of Arrogate, traveled on the rail. Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga’s attempts to bring the race fifth pick out down the backstretch were stymied and the colt finished only one off the rear nearly 16 lengths off the winner in the field of 12.
The gray colt, owned by Kazuo Kato, went to the Breeders’ Cup with only one prior start, an 1,800-meter dirt race at Hanshin on Oct. 9.
The race was won wire to wire by the race favorite, the unbeaten Corniche, with Mike Smith up. In second a length and 3/4 later was Pappacap, paired with Joe Bravo.
Trainer Hideyuki Mori said Jasper Great was “tense in the gate and his start wasn’t very good. I do think he ran nicely balanced until the far turn and then seemed to tire. I think he gave it his best,” said Mori, the only trainer from Japan to have taken on the Juvenile.
Yuichi Fukunaga, who in addition to Kawada were the two Japan-based riders in the Breeders’ Cup and both first-timers, said of Jasper Great, “He got nervous before the race. There were a lot of people in the paddock and in the stands, which may have been a factor. Unlike his start before this, he was surrounded by other horses, which made for a tough race. But I think it was a good experience for him.”
First up on Saturday, Mori’s Jasper Prince and Pingxiang finished an unfortunate last and next to last, respectively, in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The race was won by the U.S.-bred Life Is Good, with Jose Ortiz, up nearly six lengths ahead of Ginobili in second.
“The first half was pretty high-paced and run in 44-some seconds,” said Mori of his two horses. “They were travelling nicely but about 1,000 meters in they both seemed to tire and were unable to make a move.
Yuga Kawada, who rode Pingxiang, said, “I’d wanted to get a forward position but wasn’t able to and around the far turn, things started to get difficult. This horse was in good shape and did his best but I’ve realized just how strong the American dirt horses are.”
Fukunaga on Jasper Prince said similar, “I’d had the eventual winner in my sights and moved when he did, but around the far turn, things got tough. This horse tried hard though.”
In the Sprint, Mori’s Matera Sky finished fifth under Yuga Kawada. Winning was Aloha West, again under Ortiz, who nosed out Dr. Schivel with Flavien Prat up.
The 7-year-old Matera Sky, an American-bred by Speightstown, has yet to win a Grade 1 race. “I’d wanted him to break a little better than he did so we could get a good position,” said Kawada. “But he was under pressure from the other horses and it was a difficult trip for him. He is a very experienced horse and he did go all out.”
Mori said, “He had a hard time in the race first half but really tried hard in the latter half and I had really hoped for a win today. I’d wanted him to lead but the other horses were faster. He did his best.”
Vin de Garde, trained by another Breeders’ Cup newcomer Hideaki Fujiwara, was next up in the Mile, the start of which was delayed when, after all horses had been loaded, Master of The Seas in the No. 1 gate reared up and was caught in the gate. He was able to be backed and later scratched, but all horses had to be reloaded. Vin de Garde, in the No. 5 gate, had become agitated in the ruckus.
A Deep Impact 5-year-old, Vin de Garde had finished second in the Dubai Turf at Meydan early this year and was coming off an eighth in the Grade 2 Mainichi Okan at Tokyo 1,800 meters. He went to the Breeders’ Cup gate the 12th pick.
Riding Vin de Garde was Fukunaga, who said, “The plan was to break well and run a good race but we weren’t able to get a good start and I really regret that. The start was everything. I feel awful and apologize to all the fans back home in Japan.”
Fukunaga, who had ridden six of Vin de Garde’s previous 16 starts, including three wins, added, “He’s been somewhat of an excitable horse in Japan but he was calm today but he couldn’t keep up with the dash right out of the gate.
“I’d thought there wouldn’t be such a strong pace from the start and thought we could do well a bit back in the field. But that’s where things didn’t go so well and I feel responsible for his result.”
“The results were unfortunate,” said Fujiwara, with no blame placed on the rider. “The incident in the gate would have been a big factor in breaking the horse’s concentration.”
The Ritto-based Fujiwara, training now for two decades, remained upbeat about his first Breeders’ Cup experience. “I would like to express my thanks to the owner, who gave us the opportunity to take on the challenge. The local horses and horsemen did a great job and I take responsibility as the trainer for not being able to get similar results.
“But, “Fujiwara added, “Staying in the game is the most important and I will continue to devote myself to my work.”
*The results of the Japanese horses are as below:
-Races on Nov. 6:
BREEDERS' CUP DISTAFF [G1, 1,800m (1 1/8 Miles) Dirt, US$ 2 million, 16:00]
BREEDERS' CUP MILE [G1, 1,600m (1 Mile) Turf, US$ 2 million, 15:20]
BREEDERS' CUP SPRINT [G1, 1,200m (6 Furlongs) Dirt, US$ 2 million, 14:38]
BREEDERS' CUP FILLY & MARE TURF [G1, 2,200m (1 3/8 Miles) Turf, US$ 2 million, 13:59]
-Race on Nov. 5:
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE [G1, 1,700m (1 1/16 miles) Dirt, US$ 2 million, 16:50]
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