Loves Only You set the perfect seal on one of international racing’s most colourful careers with a spellbinding success in the HK$30 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) on Sunday (12 December).
Yoshito Yahagi’s globetrotting mare has flown the Hinomaru flag from Dubai to Hong Kong and on to the USA then back to Sha Tin again in 2021, leading home a Japanese 1-2-3-4 in the G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) in April then creating history by becoming the first horse from her nation to score at the Breeders’ Cup.
Hong Kong’s richest race had been nominated as the final race of the Deep Impact mare’s career soon after she crossed the line in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (2200m) at Del Mar on 6 November.
Her fifth long flight of the year took her annual distance covered to over 20,000 miles but Loves Only You was produced in perfect condition and completed the final leg of her global odyssey with a last-gasp success under the coolest of rides from Yuga Kawada.
The 36-year-old rider, who was extremely fortunate not to be brought down when previous winner Danon Smash was badly hampered in a dramatic G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) earlier in the day, was understandably thrilled to record his first HKIR success. “Thank you very much, I’m very proud,” he said.
“She jumped well. The pace was a bit slow but then she relaxed and I was able to find a good position. She’s given me two big presents and is the best female horse I’ve ever ridden. I hope she will be a good mother.”
Sent off the 2.6 market leader, Loves Only You jumped alertly from stall four and was soon travelling keenly just behind a steady early pace set by Mac Swiney, Ka Ying Star and the wide-running Bolshoi Ballet.
Hong Kong Cup Replay
Russian Emperor made a bold move to hit the front as a packing field jostled for position early in the home straight but last season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) runner-up edged right with his tongue lolling out as he did so, placing Loves Only You in a pocket on the inner at a crucial point.
Hishi Iguazu produced a storming run from the rear on the outside soon after under Joao Moreira to draw level briefly well inside the final furlong.
However, Kawada had Loves Only You in fully cry by this stage and the five-year-old repeated her Del Mar heroics, quickening valiantly between horses under pressure to lead close home and beat her fellow Japanese raider by a short head.
Russian Emperor ran the race of his life for Douglas Whyte and Blake Shinn to finish a length away in third, while British raider Dubai Honour never looked like becoming the first European runner to win the Cup since Snow Fairy in 2010 but stayed on powerfully for fourth once in the clear for William Haggas and Tom Marquand.
Three years on from seeing his star filly Lys Gracieux beaten narrowly by Exultant in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m), winning trainer Yoshito Yahagi was completing an incredible end to 2021 which has also produced a 50-1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff success for Marche Lorraine and a commanding Japan Cup success for his superstar colt Contrail.
Golden Sixty Repeats in Hong Kong Mile
Golden Sixty stands alone as Hong Kong’s most prolific winner in history after he successfully defended his G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) crown at Sha Tin this afternoon (Sunday, 12 December).
Nailing yet another heart-stopping win under jockey Vincent Ho, Hong Kong’s champion savoured the 19th win of his career to set a new record in town, surpassing the previous mantle of 18 he shared with Silent Witness and Beauty Generation, dating back to when the professional era of Hong Kong racing commenced in 1971.
Smashing a fine field of 10 others from Japan, Ireland and Hong Kong including this year’s G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) winner (Danon Kingly), Golden Sixty enhanced his earnings to a mouth-watering HK$95.453 million with victory, just HK$10.78 million shy of the record mark (in Hong Kong) set by Beauty Generation (HK$106.233 million).
Racing in the silks of Stanley Chan Ka-Leung and trained by Francis Lui, Golden Sixty – ‘The Pride of Hong Kong’ – delivered a performance worthy of status as the world’s best miler.
“I feel very happy, he’s my champion and I have to say thank you to my team and Vincent (Ho) and the owner – they support me,” Lui said.
Extending his winning sequence to 16, Ho dropped the Medaglia d’Oro gelding back to the second half of the field on the fence; in the straight, Ho weaved for an out, eventually taking a split at the 300m mark before his sparkling dash carried him to a one and three quarter length victory in a time of 1m 33.86s.
Hong Kong Mile Replay
“I knew he was at his best, gate two was a little bit tricky, I didn’t want to be stuck on the inside but eventually the race panned out well and the pace was genuine,” Ho said.
More Than This filled second spot while Salios and Mother Earth grabbed third and fourth, respectively.
“It was much better today because the pace was on, he actually relaxed very well and as a six-year-old he’s more mature, so it’s even better,” Ho said.
The success is the second at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races for both Francis Lui and Vincent Ho, while today’s performance sees Golden Sixty remain unbeaten since September, 2019.
“It’s all about teamwork as well, without anyone from the stable we couldn’t do this,” Ho said.
A six-year-old – Golden Sixty – boasts eight wins over 1200m and 1400m, while twice he has stepped up to 2000m successfully, claiming the 2020 BMW Hong Kong Derby and 2021 G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup.
Sky Field Wins Hong Kong Sprint
Caspar Fownes and Blake Shinn were left with conflicting emotions after Sky Field steamed to success in the HK$24 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), fending off world-class opposition from Japan to continue Hong Kong’s dominance in the event.
Shinn, 34, slotted his first G1 triumph in Hong Kong but the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey’s thoughts – and those also of Fownes – were with Pixie Knight (Yuichi Fukunaga), Lucky Patch (Zac Purton), Naboo Attack (Karis Teetan) and Amazing Star (Lyle Hewitson), who fell on the home turn.
Shinn and Sky Field avoided the incident before staving off Resistencia (Christophe Soumillon) by three-quarters of a length in 1m 08.66s. Courier Wonder (Joao Moreira) was third, one and a half lengths from the winner.
Shinn’s faith in Sky Field, a son of Deep Field, was rewarded on the highest stage and came three seasons into the Australian’s Hong Kong stint.
Hong Kong Sprint Replay
“I have mixed emotions for winning this race today. Obviously, the first emotion is that my feelings are with the fallen jockeys and horses out there,” said the quietly-spoken Australian said.
“It’s gut-wrenching for any rider to see a horse go down. What’s happened today, it’s a real bitter-sweet win and in a way it’s a hard win to take in the circumstances.
“All credit to Caspar Fownes, he’s given me the opportunity to ride this lovely animal over the previous season and this season.
“We’ve always had faith in him but on the big stage things haven’t always gone this way. Today, he performed to his best today and still beat a handy horse in chasing down a top-line horse in Courier Wonder and the Japanese horse (Resistencia).
“He’s a great horse and hopefully he can keep going forward.”
Glory Vase Claims Hong Kong Vase
Champion jockey Joao Moreira combined with the Tomohito Ozeki-trained Japanese stayer Glory Vase for a stunning win in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) at Sha Tin today (12 December).
It was a repeat of their 2019 success but achieved in different style as Moreira registered his seventh Hong Kong International Races win and his third in the Vase having also been successful on the Japanese-trained Satono Crown in 2016.
Glory Vase unleashed a withering burst from second last turning for home, in contrast to the handier stalking passage he enjoyed in 2019, to deny fairytale results for the trainers of the placegetters; Briton William Muir with his Hong Kong debut runner in second-placed Pyledriver and Frenchman Alain de Royer-Dupre – twice a HKIR winner – who prepared third place Ebaiyra, who’ll be his final Hong Kong runner as the trainer retires at the end of the year.
Local challenger Reliable Team led, as expected, but was exposed early to significant pressure from Stay Foolish, the one other Japanese-trained runner, with Martin Dwyer – who won the Vase in 2004 – ensuring that Pyledriver enjoyed the slipstream run behind the pacemakers and the Muir-trained stayer looked the likely winner on straightening but could not hold out the indefatigable Glory Vase.
Dwyer was delighted with the performance of his mount but conceded, which was apparent for all to see, that the winner was simply too good.
“Really pleased, good run but I think the winner is very good,” Dwyer said.
Hong Kong Vase Replay
Moreira, meanwhile, was understandably upbeat about the winner whom he described as his “best chance” in the International Races in the preamble to the meeting.
“No doubts about it, I did enjoy it so much, “Moreira said, “this win and everything in my life is to the honour of Jesus Christ, who has been in my life always and today has been a very good example.
“I felt Him with me and everything went as I expected. I had a smooth run, going to the fence and saving ground. I just made sure I got into the clear and I know he’s a very strong horse at the finish and there was not a fight.
“He has proven to be the best horse today.”
Christophe Soumillon, who rode minor placegetter Ebaiyra, said the French filly performed creditably. “She ran well, she was a bit keen in the first part of the race. When we came to the last turn, I thought she would probably fight for the win but the last 200 (metres), she got tired.”
Last year’s winner Mogul conceded meekly in the home straight after being poised to challenge coming to the home turn and jockey Ryan Moore said he was “disappointing”.
Glory Vase won by one length from Pyledriver with Ebaiyra a further two and a half lengths back in third. Glory Vase was competing in Hong Kong for the second time this year having finished second to Loves Only You in the G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) in April.