Globetrotting Galileo colt Highland Reel (3c Galileo-Hveger, by Danehill) rewrote the record books in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The winner of the G1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington in August, Highland Reel not only became the first three-year-old colt to triumph in this famous Sha Tin contest, but also gave trainer Aidan O’Brien his first ever Hong Kong victory.
Ryan Moore guided the smart-breaking Highland Reel to the vanguard as the field of 13 rolled into the first turn. Once there, Moore steadied the tempo, and, with the field crawling along the back stretch, Tommy Berry decided enough was enough, sweeping his mount, Harbour Master, around the field to lead at the 1,200-metre mark.
With Cirrus Des Aigles posted second outside the new leader, Moore settled Highland Reel into a tracking third. Turning for home, Vincent Cheminaud made his move outside Highland Reel on the race favourite and 2014 winner, Flintshire. The French colt loomed four wide on the turn and with Moore already pumping away on Highland Reel – and the front two faltering – it looked like a repeat of last year’s result was on the cards.
But after hitting the lead with 300 metres to race, Andre Fabre’s stable star was soon feeling the squeeze. Moore’s power-packed drive took Highland Reel beyond his emptying rival and the Galileo colt drew away for a decisive length and a half triumph.
“He did it all very easily, he’s turned into a good horse,” said Moore. “He’s improved immensely since the start of the year. He’s had a hard schedule but he keeps getting better. When Flintshire came by me I thought I was in trouble but as soon as that horse folded a little bit he dug in and the way he’s improved through the year, it’s quite something.”
“I was always happy to let him bowl along at his own pace and if someone else wanted to lead that was fine but he gets away very well, he’s very professional. He was going quite nicely down the back then Harbour Master wanted to get on with it and I had to change the plan a little bit.
“I got into him and got him balanced in the straight and as soon as he got into a battle he really wanted it. Flintshire is a very high class colt and takes some beating in these races, so I think it was a very good performance from my horse.
“He’s had plenty of experience around the world and he’s only a three-year-old but he’s a hardened three-year-old now.”