The Aidan O’Brien-trained Highland Reel won his second HK$18 million Longines Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin Racecourse when the globe-trotting five year-old ended his illustrious career in a blaze of glory.
The horse, describe by his trainer as “irreplaceable” claimed an incredible seventh Grade 1 success in yet another brave determined performance as he moved clear of the French-trained Talismanic, who had defeated the Ballydoyle runner in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar last time out, when the Godolphin-owned runner joined Highland Reel 150m from the line. The son of Galileo went eyeball-to-eyeball with the French horse and again showed the courage and honesty that have characterised his career as he moved ahead to claim victory.
Talismanic finished a length and three-quarters behind in second, with the Hideaki Fujiwara-trained Tosen Basil a further three quarters of a length further back in third.
Jockey Ryan Moore said of the first horse to regain the Hong Kong Vase and only the third horse in history to win the race twice:
“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.”
Helene Charisma had set the pace in the Vase, with Highland Reel second and Talismanic behind him. Down the back straight, Moore came to the leader and on the turn into the home straight urged the great battler 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.
“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,” the winning rider admitted.
His trainer, Aidan O’Brien, paid a glowing tribute to the horse at Sha Tin on Sunday, saying:
“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.”
O’Brien went on, again using the word irreplaceable:
“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; a horse like him is irreplaceable.”
Following a hugely successful racing career during which he has been trainer Aidan O’Brien’s top money earning horse in both 2016 and 2017, Highland Reel, who ran in Ireland, Britain, France, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai and the USA, will soon begin his new career as a Coolmore Stud stallion. With an incredible record of 10 wins from 27 starts in a total of six different countries, the horse bought for 460,000 guineas as yearling, is certain to be in demand with breeders.