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By Graham Potter | Monday, December 18, 2017

It was an obvious great thrill for the connections of Highland Reel when the entire romped home in the Hong Kong Vase under a great tactical ride from Ryan Moore, in the process turning the tables on Talismanic who had kept the Aidan O’Brien runner back in third place in the Breeder’s Cup back in early November.

This was Highland Reel’s second win in the Vase. It came in his final race meaning he goes out right at the top of his game as he heads off for Coolmore Stud to start his career as a stallion boasting a race record of ten wins (including seven Group 1 victories) from twenty-seven starts in seven countries.

His ability and his resilience had Aidan O’Brien commenting, ‘He is irreplaceable.”

There was also feeling of satisfaction at the result some 7000km away back in Brisbane, Australia.

Brisbane trainer Brian Smith takes up the story.

“At a time when I was training at Warwick Farm we decided to go to the Easter Sales and buy a decent yearling.

"Some horses were passed in and there were two or three fillies to choose from and between Frank Tagg and a couple of others we decided on Circles Of Gold, which was the only horse we had actually bid on.

"She was passed in for $45 000 and we then met the reserve price and got her for $50 000.

“She was out of a good mare from Cambridge Stud called Good Thing and I knew how tough she was. She was a great New Zealand mare.

“So we took Circles Of Gold home. She was tough to break in ... really tough to break in. She’d drop the bloke and then he would ride around the river, get dropped again ... then take her around again.

“I scoped her when she came back because she tired but she didn’t have anything in there so I turned around and said, ‘this is an Oaks filly this one.’ She had already shown how tough she was.”

But her connections still had to be patient. After a long spell Smith only brought her back to racing in January 1995 midway through her three-year-old season.

“So down the road she wins the AJC Oaks at a starting price of 20-1,” continued Smith. “That was her ninth start in that preparation. She was just that tough.

“Then she went to Adelaide and won. Then went back to Brisbane and ran second in the Queensland Oaks. She won the Coongy Cup on the Wednesday before the Caulfield Cup and then was ridden by Brett Prebble in the Cup and was just beaten by a neck.

“Then I made a mistake really. I ran her in the McKinnon Stakes before the Melbourne Cup. She finished fourth there behind three really good horses.

“So I ran her in the Melbourne Cup. She was midfield and the owner said afterwards I’ll take her home. I said, no, we’ll run her in the Sandown Cup in a fortnight. She ran second in that.

The owner said I’ll take her home. I said, no, we’ll put her on a plane to Perth ... Barry Lockwood went with her on the plane ... and she ran second in the Fruit And Veg. That was going back to 1800m.

“She was that versatile and game, even though she was only a lightly framed horse.”

Circles Of Gold retired with a race record of six wins (and thirteen) places from forty-three starts with stake earning of $936 835 but her breeding career was to bring more success with her progeny including the likes of Australian champions and international Group 1 winners Elvstroem (who won the Queens Anne Stakes) and Haradasun (who won the Dubai Duty Free) ... and a mare called Hveger.

She won’t be as well-known as the two others mentioned above but she has her own particular claim to fame BEING THE DAM OF HIGHLAND REEL!

And that is where the legacy of Circles Of Gold continues and the connection comes in with the Hong Kong Vase winner.

“Circles Of Gold was just so willing and so tough and I saw something of her in Highland Reel in his win at Sha Tin.

"She might only be his grand-dam, and it is a different era but, watching that win, I believe Circles Of Gold has passed the best of her qualities on down through Highland Reel’s dam-line.

“Highland Reel looked in a bit of trouble soon after turning for home but what did he do?

“He dug in again and came away from them.

“Tough as teak and I think I know, in part at least, where he got it from!”

More articles

Brian Smith enjoyed Highland Reel's win in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase ... with good reason
Brian Smith enjoyed Highland Reel's win in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase ... with good reason
Aidan O'Brien ... trainer of Highland Reel
Aidan O'Brien ... trainer of Highland Reel
Highland Reel

Photos: Graham Potter
Highland Reel

Photos: Graham Potter
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