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Vincent Ho engineers Japanese clean sweep of FWD QEII Cup in remarkable Sha Tin coup

April 26, 2021, 8:31:11 AM

Loves Just You won the HK$25 million G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, with Yoshito Yahagi relishing revenge and Vincent Ho reveling in the best day of his burgeoning career for the seasoned Japanese trainer and the youthful Hong Kong jockey combining with disastrous impact (25 April).

Loves Just You crowned a dazzling dominance of the race by the visitors, confirming Japan's soaring reputation as a foreign staying superpower, with Glory Vase, Daring Tact, and Kiseki filling the minor placings.

Exultant (fifth), the 2020 champion, led Hong Kong's brigade home, followed by Glorious Dragon (sixth) and Time Warp (seventh) (seventh).

Traveling around the world Yahagi has celebrated wins in Dubai and Australia, but the flamboyant handler has never won in Hong Kong before today.

All of that changed with a flawless ride by Ho, who became the first home-grown jockey in history to ride two Group 1 winners in a single day at Sha Tin.

“I can't explain it,” Ho said, responding to a pair of G1 victories in 40 minutes.

“The horse (Loves Only You) is in great shape. She was very nice before the 800 metre mark, when she kind of fell flat. I gave her two shakes to show her a little bit, and then I asked her again, and she replied very well all the way down the line.

“I won't look back until the starting line, but she was incredible. I'm thankful that my Japanese contacts asked me to ride her.

“Winning the QEII Cup, as well as the Derby and the December internationals, is one of my dream goals; a QEII Cup victory means a lot to me.

“Today is wonderful with Golden Sixty and Loves Only You. It's certainly one of the highlights, and I'm sure I'll appreciate it.”

Ho said he had not received any orders from Yahagi, who was watching the race from Japan.

“Mr Yahagi gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted because he knew the horse was fine and that if she's moving at her own speed, she'll perform,” Ho said.

“That was my first win on a Japanese-trained horse in Hong Kong, but I expect to go to Japan to ride one day in the summer; it will be a wonderful experience for me. I still have a lot to discover, and cycling in other countries is a great way to do so.”

Yusaku Oka, Yahagi's assistant trainer, hinted at how important it was for the stable to avenge Cox Plate champion Lys Gracieux's loss in Hong Kong in 2019.

“We came here two years ago with Lys Gracieux and didn't win, but we did revenge for this race this time, which makes me very proud.

“We appreciate your love for Dubai Racing Club and Hong Kong Jockey Club. This is a really complicated case, and we received a lot of help. Coronavirus is a problem not only for humans, but also for horses.

“I saw her body looking very fine as she traveled from Dubai to Hong Kong and I saw the horse in Hong Kong. I wasn't concerned about her training. She was in excellent condition.

“Vincent Ho rode her very well.”

Loves Just You – a daughter of Deep Impact – boosted Japan's popularity in the spring feature, joining Eishin Preston (2002 & 2003), Rulership (2012), Neorealism (2017), and Win Bright (2019).

Oka said that the mare will return to Hong Kong in December.

“We'll see how she gets back to Japan, and we'll speak with the trainers and owners.” Then we'll make a call on the future,” he added. “There is a good chance she will return because she won here in Hong Kong this year.”

“She gave us a nice run as usual,” said Daring Tact's jockey, Kohei Matsuyama. I realize she had a lot of people rooting for her, but the first thing I have to say is that I'm sorry.

“As for the excuse, I can't think of anything suitable for her today. The first two runners ahead of her ran a fantastic race.”

“He runs well, I was trailing Vincent (Ho) and he pinched the race on the home turn,” Karis Teetan said of runner-up Glory Vase, while Chad Schofield said Kiseki tried hard.

“He was genuine, he ran his normal race – he gave everything,” said Zac Purton of Exultant.