May 20 (UPI) -- While the 3-year-old set still has center stage on the international racing scene With Loves Only You burst onto the stage Sunday in Japan, winning that country's Oaks and Investec Derby and Oaks preparations well in hand in England.
But the older runners are starting to emerge from their long hibernation with eyes on many prizes -- none more so than Stradivarius, who kicked off his defense of the European stayers' title with a win during the weekend.
Here's a look at the global scope of weekend racing action:
Loves Only You gutted out a hard-fought victory in Sunday's Group 1 Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks, at Tokyo Racecourse, edging long shot Curren Bouquetd'or by a neck with a late effort. Loves Only You, a Deep Impact filly out of the Storm Cat Mare Love Only Me, finished the 2,400 meters in 2:28.8, shaving 0.8 second off the stakes record set by the immortal Gentildonna in 2012.
With Mirco Demuro up, she remained well back in the 18-filly field at the top of the long stretch and with 200 meters to go, she still had a half dozen rivals in front of her. But she also was in full flight as she crested the hill with 100 meters to go, caught Curren Bouquetd'or with 50 meters left and hung on for the win.
Those two were followed by Chrono Genesis, Victoria and last year's 2-year-old filly champion, Danon Fantasy.
Loves Only You is a full sister to Real Steel, 2016 winner of the Group 1 Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World.
"I was a bit worried at the final corner since we were in a lower position than planned," Demuro said. "But she showed an incredible burst of speed and stretched beautifully. She has a heart of steel and can't stand to lose.
Stradivarius started 2019 playing the same tune as last year, winning Friday's Group 2 Matchbook Yorkshire Cup at York. This time around, the 5-year-old son of Sea the Stars had to work a bit for the win, seeing off Coolmore's hope, Southern France, by 3/4 length at the end of the 1 3/4 miles. It was another 5 lengths back to Mildenberger in third and a further 1 length to the Godolphin challenger, Ispolini.
In 2018, Stradivarius won the same race by 3 lengths, then went on to win the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers Million bonus by completing a 4-for-4 season with a win in the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup in October. The Ascot Gold Cup is next on the agenda as trainer John Gosden plots a repeat of the well-rewarded feat.
"The season will map itself," Gosden told Racing Post after congratulating winning jockey Frankie Dettori. "We haven't trained him hard for this and the Gold Cup is a different ball game over two and a half miles ... He's not the polished, finished article but we hope to have that right at Royal Ascot."
On Saturday at Newbury, Mustashry had more than enough to land his first Group 1 win in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes. The 6-year-old gelding, campaigned by Sir Michael Stoute for Sheik Hamdan Al Maktoum, jumped out to a quick lead and runner-up Laurens could get no closer than 2 1/2 lengths at the finish. Accidental Agent was third.
"We knew he was in very good shape," Sir Michael said. "He's had his niggles over his career, but I don't think we've had him in better shape than he is this spring.
"I would think the Queen Anne (at Royal Ascot June 18) would be what Sheik Hamdan would want and I think it would be the right move. But he's a versatile horse. He's won over a mile and a quarter as well."
Keneda found a quick turn of foot and a handy seam between rivals 200 meters from home in Saturday's Group 1 Hardy Brothers Jewellers Doomben Cup, got through and hung on to win by 3/4 length. Life Less Ordinary put in a late bid but ran out of room, finishing second. It was nearly a length farther back to Sixties Groove in third. With John Allen up, Keneda ran 2,000 meters on soft going in 2:02.18.
It was the second Group 1 win of the autumn for the 5-year-old Not a Single Doubt mare, following on the Queen Turf at Randwick in April.