Breeders' Cup International Horse Profile: Love

December 30th, 2021

Filly & Mare Turf

Although not the all-conquering force of a year ago, Love remains capable of a top-class effort in the right circumstances. The 2021 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf meets her prerequisites, suggesting that she will run up to form at Del Mar, and potentially give Aidan O’Brien an overdue first win in this race.

The master of Ballydoyle has gone close a few times, including here in 2017. He probably would have won it by now if a few of his star females hadn’t run in the Turf instead. That’s where Love was headed too, until switched to the Filly & Mare Turf to help the cause of O’Brien’s Turf also-eligibles, who are all trying to fit in the gate.

By Galileo and out of the Pivotal mare Pikaboo, Love is superior to her full sisters, Group 3 scorers Peach Tree and Flattering. They are also half-sisters to multiple Group 2-winning juvenile Lucky Kristale, from the further family of Breeders’ Cup Mile contender Vin de Garde.

Love progressed over the course of her two-year-old campaign in 2019, when her preference for quicker ground was already discernible. After a front-running romp in the Silver Flash (G3), she was a one-paced fifth in the Curragh’s Debutante (G2) on yielding going, but rebounded in the Moyglare Stud (G1) over the same course on good ground. Love concluded the season with a solid third in the Fillies’ Mile (G1) on good-to-soft at Newmarket.

But the three-year-old Love was a revelation. Resurfacing in the pandemic-delayed 1000 Guineas (G1), Love rolled from off the pace to dominate by 4 1/4 lengths. Her stout finish over the mile indicated that she’d appreciate going further, and she followed up with an even more devastating performance in the 1 1/2-mile Oaks (G1) at Epsom. Powering nine lengths clear, Love broke Enable’s stakes record in 2:34.06, thanks to a couple of pacemakers who went mad early. It should also be noted that Enable crushed a few better rivals in the Oaks than the less-inspiring crew behind Love.

Unfortunately, Love raced only once more to cap a perfect sophomore season. She turned in a stalk-and-pounce demolition job in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1), where a 33-1 shot named Alpinista was second. Alpinista has improved this season, and she’s now better known as the conqueror of Torquator Tasso as well as Turf contenders Walton Street and Sisfahan.

The sometime antepost favorite for the 2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), Love was an early withdrawal due to the adverse forecast. She couldn’t have run in any event, since the O’Brien entrants all had to be scratched after feed contamination.

Love picked up right where she left off, however, in her 2021 premiere at Royal Ascot. Making her first start versus males in the June 16 Prince of Wales’s (G1), she found her most dangerous rival to be fellow distaffer Audarya. In a race that promised to be tactical, Love played her old front-running card and stole it through leisurely fractions. But she had to keep finding bravely to rebuff Audarya, the reigning Filly & Mare Turf queen. Ballydoyle stablemate Armory made belated headway for third, and old stager Desert Encounter got no closer than fifth.

Returning to Ascot for the July 24 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) over 1 1/2 miles, Love was favored over two outstanding males and ended up succumbing to both. She was settled off the pace set by stablemate Broome (Turf), just in the slipstream of Adayar. But she couldn’t catch up when Adayar made his winning move, and Mishriff outkicked her when rallying from the rear. To her credit, Love never stopped trying to pursue the top two. Regular rider Ryan Moore had to tell her she had done enough, since they were six lengths clear of Broome.

Love was slated to revert to distaff company for the Prix Jean Romanet (G1), but when stable star St Mark’s Basilica was ruled out of the Juddmonte International (G1), she was called up as a super-sub at York. Stalking on the inside before offering a mild bid, she was beaten further by Mishriff, who stormed home by six lengths. Love was relegated to third, a half-length off smart three-year-old colt Alenquer, but again she tried all the way to the line.

Finally, Love got her chance back in her own division in the Sept. 12 Blandford (G2) on Irish Champions Weekend, and she looked like a winner for much of the way. Picking up the baton from her pacemaker at the top of the Curragh stretch, she forged clear. Then the upwardly-mobile sophomore La Petite Coco steadily chipped away at her margin, and with a nine-pound weight advantage, prevailed on a head-bob that could have gone either way. Although Love was toppled as the 6-5 favorite, she left Thundering Nights – a pretty solid yardstick who’d edged Santa Barbara at this track and trip – three lengths astern in third. La Petite Coco could have boosted the form on British Champions Day, but a setback put her on the sidelines.

Love was penciled in for the Arc, but for the second straight year, had to be scratched. Although the heavy ground was going to be totally against her anyway, she came down with a fever. Her blood picture still wasn’t right for her to run on British Champions Day either. She arrives at the Breeders’ Cup fresher than otherwise might have been.

If Love was perhaps a bit overestimated by her 2020 results, she shouldn’t be downgraded after a series of losses that are nevertheless respectable. Her combination of tactical speed, form versus elite males, and generous attitude must be respected. The firm turf and shorter stretch at Del Mar will also play to her strengths, and this is a better spot for her than the Turf.