Highland Reel won his second Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday to sign off his career in style before he heads off to stud - watch a full replay of the Group One contest below and read our report.
By Geoffrey Riddle
Highland Reel capped a memorable career by fighting off Breeders’ Cup conqueror Talismanic in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Ridden supremely by Ryan Moore, the five-year-old globe-trotter held off the late challenge of the French raider and Maxime Guyon by a length and three-quarters to secure his tenth career success and his seventh Group One victory in all.
After 22 individual runs abroad Highland Reel will now retire to stud, where he will stand for £17,500, and Moore paid tribute to the five-year-old immediately after the race.
“The race was smooth,” he said.
“He is a straightforward horse. We keep bringing him back here for the last three years and he has been all around the world. It is a fitting way for him to finish. He is a brilliant racehorse and there is plenty to look forward to at stud now.”Highland Reel won his seventh Group One in Hong Kong on Sunday (HKJC)
In what has been a stellar season for Aidan O’Brien the Irish handler was posting his 28th Group One victory of the year.
He said: "He’s a very special horse – he’s irreplaceable, really,"
"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 (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."
Sam Clipperton initially set steady fractions from the front aboard local challenger Helene Charisma and Moore worked his way over to the rail slowly from stall eight to sit in the leader’s slipstream.
Coming in to the straight Moore grabbed the lead and looked to be working hard at the son of Galileo and one and half furlongs out Talismanic came with what appeared to be a winning run.
Highland Reel had other ideas, however, and Moore urged his mount to one final victory to win the race in a time of 2min 26.23sec.
“I was always happy and always confident," Moore added.
"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.
“He is a very good horse, his record shows that and he has been delightful to be a part of.”
Highland Reel picked up £1,072,100.31 for his efforts and Europe's highest money earner bows put with £7,513,355 in the bank for the Coolmore syndicate. He joins Doctor Dino and Luso as a two-time winner.
Guyon was happy with the run of his Godolphin mount, who stays in training and was being mentioned before the race as a possible contender for the Dubai Sheema Classic in March.
“I was in an ideal position all the way, where I wanted to be and close enough to Highland Reel," he said.
"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.”
Tosen Basil was the first local runner home in third and jockey Joao Moreira said: “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.”
Ralph Beckett's Chemical Charge ran a personal best in fourth under 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," the jockey said.
"He ran on really well and that was a career best effort.”
If the Europeans struck early on, the locals dominated the Sprint and the Mile.
Mr Stunning led home a one-two for trainer John Size in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint.
Partnered by Nash Rawiller, Mr Stunning maintained a watching brief in third through the early stages of the six-furlong heat as Once In A Moon and Peniaphobia blazed an early trail.
Once In A Moon soon dropped back, leaving Peniaphobia in front with a couple of furlongs to run, but when Rawiller gave the signal, Mr Stunning quickly assumed control.
His stablemate D B Pin finished with a real flourish on his outside, but Mr Stunning held on to the win with Blizzard third.
Lancaster Bomber and Roly Poly failed to make their presence felt as Beauty Generation won the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin.
O'Brien's runners were partnered by Moore and Seamie Heffernan respectively, but they made little impact as the John Moore-trained winner powered home.
Derek Leung had his mount smartly away, managing to tack over to the rail from his mid-field draw to set the pace as both the Ballydoyle runners were deep in the pack.
Beauty Generation was still in control with two furlongs to run and although Western Express and Helene Paragon tried to challenge, the winner kept finding for pressure.
Lancaster Bomber made some late headway, eventually running on into fifth but Roly Poly struggled up the straight and finished last while David Simcock's Lightning Spear was also unplaced.
Leung said: "I'm very, very happy, the horse ran very well."