As Paulo Lobo made his way across the Keeneland track last October for the winner’s circle routine that is reserved for graded stakes at the Lexington track, the albatross that had hung over the veteran trainer for 16 years prior finally fell away.
When the native of San Paulo, Brazil saddled his charge Ivar (BRZ) to victory in the 2020 edition of the Turf Mile (G1) last fall, it marked the first top-level win for Lobo since Pico Central (BRZ) had captured the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in 2004. It also served as a long overdue reminder of what the now Lexington-based conditioner is capable of when given the opportunity to work his magic on quality stock.
On Oct. 9, over the same Keeneland course where he ended his Grade 1 drought, Lobo made sure his brethren were still getting the memo about how formidable his barn can be.
One year after taking the signature race of the Keeneland Fall meet with a son of Agnes Gold (JPN) owned by Bonne Chance Farm and Stud R D I, Lobo provided a slightly altered version of instant reply. Instead of Ivar, this time it was his stablemate In Love (BRZ) striding across the finish line in front as the bay gelding kicked on for a 1 ½-length victory in the $750,000 Keeneland Turf Mile on a blockbuster Saturday card.
“You know how hard it is to win one race at Keeneland? Imagine winning a Grade 1 and then coming back to win two Grade 1s in a row,” beamed Lobo, who first gained acclaimed in the United States when he trained 2002 champion 3-year-old filly Farda Amiga. “It’s a dream that came true.”
Lobo’s barn is currently enjoying its best season in terms of earnings since 2004 due in no small part of the recent hot streak his runners have been on.
At the Kentucky Downs meet last month, Lobo and Bonne Chance teamed up to watch Imperador (BRZ) win the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup Stakes (G2), earning the bay horse a fees-paid berth into the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6. Just days before Imperador triumphed over the European-style course, In Love fired a shot across the bow when he took the $400,000 TVG Stakes by 2 ¼-lengths on Sept. 8, his second straight victory.
Though the 5-year-old gelded son of Agnes Gold had finished eighth in the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) on June 26 – his first try against graded company in the United States – he got his mojo back in his next outing by taking an allowance optional claiming test at Arlington on July 25. Since Lobo added blinkers to In Love, he has seen an ever greater improvement in form – an upswing that will get tested at Del Mar next month as his Turf Mile triumph earned him a fees-paid berth into the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) Presented by PDJF.
“I think when he won at Arlington it gave him confidence and then he ran huge at Kentucky Downs with blinkers,” Lobo said. “And here, he loves it here. He loves Keeneland. I think it’s a combination of everything and it just worked out good for him.
“When you have good horses in your hands, you have to deliver. I have good horses, and they are running well.”
With upstart jockey Alex Achard riding in his first career Grade 1 race, In Love raced in midpack in the 12-horse field while getting a ground-saving trip along the rail as Brown Storm (CHI) led the field of 12 through early fractions of :23.37 and :47.30.
Achard kept In Love inside until the top of the stretch when he swung out six wide to launch his bid that carried him to the front at midstretch and on to victory, stopping the teletimer in 1:34.84 over a course rated good.
“(Recording my first Grade 1 win) feels great. Especially at Keeneland—I love Keeneland—and it couldn’t be any better,” Achard said. “(In Love) he’s getting older but he’s getting better. He’s like a good wine. Every race he shows up and he’s even better every time.”
Sent off at 12-1 odds, In Love returned $26.60, $15.40 and $9.60. Tell Your Daddy, ridden by Julien Leparoux, got up for second by a half a length over Somelikeithotbrown with defending race winner Ivar checking in fourth in just his second start of 2021.
“Also I liked a lot Ivar (BRZ). I think he was fighting a lot off the long layoff,” Lobo said of the fourth-place finisher in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile. “I think maybe we are going to have three horses in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Owned by Bonne Chance and Stud R D I, In Love improved his record to five wins from 13 starts with $729,700 in earnings.
“I’m going (to the Breeders’ Cup) with the same confidence for the race as last year,” Lobo said. “The horses, I expect both of them to come out from the race in good order.”