Aidan O’Brien’s Highland Reel bows out in style in Hong Kong
Five-year-old caps off a stunning career with a seventh Group One victory at Sha Tin
Highland Reel secured a seventh Group One victory in his final race. Photograph: Vince Caliguiri/Getty
Highland Reel brought the curtain down on his illustrious career with more top-flight glory in Hong Kong on Sunday morning and it brought Aidan O’Brien’s Group world-record haul for 2017 to a magnificent 28.
Ireland’s champion trainer was out of luck in two of the other Longines International prizes at Sha Tin. However the old stalwart Highland Reel repeated his 2015 success in the mile and a half Vase.
The five year old retires to Coolmore Stud with a record of ten wins from 27 starts, over €8 million in prizemoney, and a singular place for himself even by the halcyon standards set by O’Brien over two decades at Ballydoyle.
“He’s a very special horse. It’s very rare you get a horse that can travel the world like him. He’s incredible really,” said O’Brien after Highland Reel reversed Breeders Cup form with Godolphin’s Talismanic.
“He’s been doing it since he was a two year old - he won the Champagne at Goodwood as a two year old and he’s travelled the world in the meantime. He’s irreplaceable for us at home but we were lucky to hold onto him as a five year old,” he added.
“We thought the longer straight here (compared to Del Mar) would help,” the English jockey reported.
“He’s always been a very straightforward horse with a lot of heart as well as speed. When he gets into a fight, the longer it goes on, the more likely it is he will win it, and he was going away at the finish,” Moore added.
If Highland Reel supplied a perfect finale to his admirable career, he also put an appropriate end-of-year seal on O’Brien’s record breaking 2017.
Just over seven months after Churchill supplied the first of the trainer’s world record Group One haul, it was another son of Galileo that completed O’Brien’s top-flight campaign.
Later Deauville and War Decree failed to fire behind Time Warp in the ten furlong Cup event while Lancaster Bomber didn’t enjoy a completely clear run when fifth to the local star Beauty Generation in the Mile. His stable companion Roly Poly couldn’t overcome her high draw and faded to last.
“It was always going to be tricky from her draw on the outside and that’s the way it panned out unfortunately,” said her jockey Seamus Heffernan.