It may have been a history making moment—the first Japanese winner of a Breeders' Cup event—when Loves Only You took the Maker's Mark Filly & Mare Turf (G1T). It wasn't, however, a tremendous shock in that it's been clear for some time that Japanese middle-distance turf horses are a major force in international racing. In fact, Loves Only You, also successful in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1) in 2019, had underlined the point year, showing top-class form when she was beaten just a half-length by Mishriff —winner of this year's Saudi Cup—in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), then took the FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) in Hong Kong.
What came as a far bigger surprise just a couple of hours later was the triumph of Loves Only You's compatriot, Marche Lorraine, in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1). Dispatched at odds of nearly 50-1, Marche Lorraine was near the rear of the field as Private Mission, with Letruska and Shedaresthedevil close at hand, set ridiculous early fractions of :21.84 and :44.97, but she made good progress to go clear in the stretch, and then held off the late charge of Dunbar Road by the slimmest of noses.
Marche Lorraine came into the Distaff with only one win in a race internationally recognized as a black-type event, the 2020 Ladies Prelude, but she had captured several other events regarded as stakes level contests in Japan, and was coming off a win in the Mombetsu Breeders' Gold Cup in mid-August.
Marche Lorraine is also notable for the extensive Japanese roots in her pedigree. She is, like Love Only You—a daughter of Deep Impact—from the Sunday Silence line, but both her sire and grandsire, Orfevre and Stay Gold, were bred in Japan, and the female line has been in Japan for more than 80 years.
Orfevre himself made a significant international impression. Winner of the Japanese Triple Crown and the Arima Kinen (Grand Prix, G1) over older horses at 3, the following year he took the Takarazuka Kinen (G1), the traveled to France where he prepped for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) with a win in the Qatar Prix Foy (G2). In the Arc itself he looked the likely winner when quickening clear in the stretch, but on the heavy ground he veered sharply in towards the rail and was caught late by the filly Solemia, going down by a neck, seven lengths clear of the third horse. He returned to France the following year, and again won the Prix Foy. Starting favorite for the Arc he again finished second, five lengths behind the filly Treve. He closed out his career back in Japan taking the Arima Kinen by eight lengths. Orfevre has four crops of 3-year-olds and up, and has 14 black-type winners, 12 graded, including the four-time grade 1 winner, Lucky Lilac, and Epoca d'Oro, successful in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas, G1).
Stay Gold, the sire of Orfevre, also has his place in Japanese breeding history. In 2001 he upset the established top-class performer, Fantastic Light, in the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority & Dubai Ports Authority Dubai Sheema Classic (G2), the first international victory for a son of Sunday Silence, and then captured the Hong Kong Vase (G1) to become the first overseas grade 1 winner bred by a Japanese farm. He's gone on to sire more than 50 stakes winners, 10 of them grade 1.
Marche Lorraine's dam, Vite Marcher, is a winning daughter of the imported Deputy Minister horse, French Deputy. She is dam of seven winners from her first seven named foals, including two other graded placed horses. Vite Marcher is a half sister to Triumph March, a black-type winner by Special Week, another son of Sunday Silence. The second dam, Kyoei March, a daughter of the great European racehorse, Dancing Brave, won the Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas), and four other black-type races. There is little of note in the intervening generations, but Marche Lorraine's seventh dam, Queen Narubi, captured the Tenno Sho (Autumn) in 1953 and is also ancestress of Japanese Horse of the Year, Oguri Cap, and his half sister Oguri Roman, successful in the Oka Sho. Queen Narubi was by a Japanese-bred stallion out of a Japanese-bred mare, but the family arrived in Japan in 1930 in the shape of Queen Narubi's granddam, the Australian-born mare, Shrilly, who through a half sister to Queen Narubi also appears as third dam of another Oka Sho heroine, Tosa Mistsuru. The family goes back to the AJC Oaks scorer, Crossfire, herself a sister to Arsenal, who lifted the Melbourne Cup in 1886
Remarkably, Marche Lorraine is the first stakes winner from 21 starters by Orfevre out of mares by French Deputy although the cross is actually a rather interesting one. Orfevre is inbred 4x3 to Northern Taste, an intensely inbred horse produced by the Windfields Farm program. He was by Northern Dancer, out of a half sister to Northern Dancer's sire, Nearctic, a pattern that gives a 3x2 inbreeding to Nearctic's dam, Lady Angela. French Deputy's grandsire, Vice Regent, is also by Northern Dancer, and he is out of a half sister to Northern Taste's broodmare sire, Victoria Park. Of course, Sunday Silence, is by Halo, and his granddam, Almahmoud, is also granddam of Northern Dancer. We mentioned that Marche Lorraine's classic-winning second dam, Kyoei March, is by Dancing Brave, and he is by a son of Northern Dancer, out of a mare by Drone, a horse with a very similar background to Halo, so there is significant accumulation of similar strains. On top of that, Marche Laorraine, is from the 'L' mitochondrial haplotype as are Orfevre, Halo, Sunday Silence, Nearctic, Northern Dancer, Vice Regent, Deputy Minister, and Dancing Brave, so the chances of Marche Lorraine having appropriate nuclear dna for her mitochondrial dna are extremely high.