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By Hong Kong Jockey Club (David Morgan) | Sunday, December 10, 2017

Aidan O’Brien’s message was clear after the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m): Highland Reel is “Irreplaceable.” Three times the Ballydoyle maestro pressed that view in his post-race comments and three times the bunched press pack nodded in unanimous agreement.

Highland Reel closed out his globe-trotting career with a second victory in the HK$18 million Vase at Sha Tin Racecourse this afternoon (Sunday, 10 December), a win that epitomised his remarkable time as a racehorse: a street-fighting, stamina-laden seventh Group 1 success on a racetrack thousands of miles from home.

Ryan Moore, who rode him to that first Vase win in 2015, and who drove him to a gutsy second behind Satono Crown 12 months ago, was full of praise for the Galileo entire. Highland Reel is the third horse to win the Hong Kong Vase on two occasions and the first to achieve the feat non-consecutively.

“It’s been a massive effort from everyone to keep bringing him back for the last three years. He’s been all around the world and it’s a fitting way for him to finish. He’s been a brilliant racehorse,” Moore said of the 3.1 favourite.

Highland Reel stalked the pace-setting Helene Charisma, with Godolphin’s Talismanic a tracking third. Moore edged upsides the leader down the back straight, and, on the sweep towards the home stretch, asked the old warrior to press on.

“He’s always been a very straightforward horse and he gets the trip very well. He’s got a lot of good tactical speed and I was always happy and confident,” Moore said.

Highland Reel kicked to a length lead early in the stretch as the pack began to pursue. Tosen Basil drove down the outside under Joao Moreira but it was Talismanic, two places ahead of Highland Reel when successful in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last time, that posed the greatest danger. The French raider joined Highland Reel at the 150m mark but Ballydoyle’s battler was more than equal to the threat.

“He’s the sort of horse, once he gets into a fight, if he’s there in a fight long enough he’s probably going to prevail. He just dug in the last furlong and then at the line I thought he was going away and comfortable at the finish,” Moore said.

Highland Reel brushed off his challenger for a length and three-quarters score in a time of 2m 26.23s. The Hideaki Fujiwara-trained Tosen Basil boxed on for third, a further three quarters of a length back.

Highland Reel will now head off to a second career at Coolmore Stud with a record of 10 wins from 27 starts in seven different countries.

“He’s a very special horse – he’s irreplaceable, really,” O’Brien said. “It’s very rare that you get a horse that can travel like him. He’s been doing it since he was a two-year-old – he won the ‘Champagne’ (Vintage Stakes) at Goodwood as a two-year-old and he’s travelled the world in the meantime, so an incredible horse, really.

“He’s irreplaceable for us at home but we were lucky to hold onto him as a five-year-old, we were lucky to get another year out of him,” O’Brien said, stressing again that, “a horse like him is irreplaceable.”

Moore has been in the saddle for five of Highland Reel’s G1 wins, including both LONGINES Hong Kong Vase successes.

“His record shows he’s a very good horse and it’s a delight to have been a part of that,” the jockey said.

“He’s a high-class horse with a great attitude, very durable, he’s raced all around the world, I think the thing that marks him out is his consistency – he usually always runs his best race. He’s been a pleasure to ride and hopefully he’ll pass that on in the future.”

Maxime Guyon had no excuses after taking second on the Andre Fabre-trained Talismanic.

“He ran well,” the jockey said. “I had the perfect trip behind the winner and I tried to wait as long as possible because my horse only has a short burst of acceleration and that really worked for him in the Breeders’ Cup. But I have no excuses, he ran great.”

Moreira was thrilled with Tosen Basil’s effort: “Fantastic run,” Hong Kong’s Champion Jockey said. “He had everything perfect during the race. He came up as we turned for home to give them a challenge but they are just too good for him but he ran a fantastic third.”


1st – HIGHLAND REEL – Ryan Moore

“I was always happy and always confident. He’s the sort of horse once he gets into a fight, he’s almost always going to prevail. He dug in over the last furlong and I thought he was comfortable and going away at the finish.”

2nd – TALISMANIC – Maxime Guyon

“I was in an ideal position all the way, where I wanted to be and close enough to Highland Reel. I waited as long as I could as he only has a short run but I couldn’t get by him (Highland Reel) but he’s run a great race.”

3rd – TOSEN BASIL – Joao Moreira

“Fantatstic run. Had everything perfect during the race. He came up as we turned for home to give them a challenge but they are just too good for him but he ran a fantastic third.”

4th – CHEMICAL CHARGE – Oisin Murphy

“He was a little twitchy in the gate and missed the break a little and I was further back than I would have wanted to be. He ran on really well and that was a career best effort.”

5th – GOLD MOUNT – Zac Purton

“It was a good effort.”

6th – MAX DYNAMITE – Glyn Schofield

“He ran really well. I was in a lovely spot but the pace was probably a bit sedate for him.”

7th – SMART CALL – Jim Crowley

“From the bad draw we had to settle further back than was ideal. Under the circumstances she ran a good race.”

8th – EAGLE WAY – Tommy Berry

“He came into it very well around the corner but the internationals were better than us and he felt the effects of the setback in his training.”

9th – KISEKI – Mirco Demuro

“He started slowly which was not a big problem but the pace was a bit slow so I wanted to be in a more forward position around the final turn. But he didn’t fight in the straight. I was very disappointed.”

10th – DANEHILL KODIAC – Sean Levey
“He’s proven he’s a group 3 horse at home. I tucked him in behind Group 1 horses today and he was found wanting.”

11th – TIBERIAN – Olivier Peslier

“He started ok but he was never travelling very well. There was no power from before the 800 (metres) and he didn’t run his race. Disappointing.”

12th – HELENE CHARISMA – Sam Clipperton

“Just not good enough.”

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Photos: Graham Potter
Photos: Graham Potter
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