Highland Reel on course for perfect career finale in Hong Kong
Willie Mullins’s Max Dynamite also takes his chance in Vase
Ryan Moore on Highland Reel. The Aidan O’Brien-trained horse will attempt to repeat his 2015 victory in the mile and a half Vase in Hong Kong. Photograph: Getty Images
A fairytale finale for Highland Reel in Hong Kong on Sunday could provide the perfect seal on Aidan O’Brien’s record-breaking 2017 Group One campaign.
Ireland’s champion trainer is also set to be doubly represented in both the Mile and Cup races at the hugely prestigious end-of-season international carnival run at the Sha Tin track. The triple-Group One winning filly Roly Poly is as low as 6-1 in some ante-post lists for the Mile.
But there will be no shifting Highland Reel from centre stage as he attempts to repeat his 2015 victory in the mile and a half Vase. It will be the 27th and final start for the Ballydoyle stalwart before he retires to Coolmore Stud, and he is a clear 5-2 favourite to record a seventh Group One victory.
One of those, the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June, contributed to O’Brien’s record haul of 27 Group One successes so far this year.
Highland Reel will have to reverse Breeders’ Cup Turf form with Godolphin’s French star Talismanic, who reopposes at the weekend. However, the Irish star brings proven course form which makes him a favourite for many local punters.
After his 2015 victory Highland Reel eventually found Satono Crown too good last year after looking the likely winner for much of the race.
Ryan Moore is set to travel from Japan for the ride, and the English jockey is also likely to team up with Roly Poly and Deauville, who goes in the 10-furlong Cup event.
They will be joined by stable companions Lancaster Bomber and War Decree respectively in their races, and the Ballydoyle squad have all travelled well to Hong Kong.
‘‘There’s not a bother amongst them,” said Ballydoyle’s travelling representative Pat Keating.
Irish interest at the carnival will also include Willie Mullins’s dual-purpose star Max Dynamite, who travelled to Hong Kong from Australia having been placed for a second time in the Melbourne Cup last month.
“He’s in great order, and was feeling good this morning. He’s travelled up well from Melbourne,” confirmed Mullins’s representative, David Casey.
Max Dynamite will be ridden by Australian jockey Glyn Schofield, who reported: “I did briefly meet the connections in Melbourne, and I’m delighted to be given the chance to ride him. He’s in with a chance on his Melbourne Cup run.”
Irish success at the Hong Kong international carnival goes back over 25 years to when Dermot Weld shipped out Additional Risk to win the equivalent of what is now the Mile in 1991. It was 13 years before a follow-up, but Jim Bolger’s Alexander Goldrun bridged the gap in style with a dramatic victory in the Cup event. Highland Reel remains the only other Irish-trained winner to date.
In contrast, the top French jockey Olivier Peslier has more than double that tally himself with seven wins from 33 starts across the four International contests over the years. Peslier will hope to join his compatriot Gerald Mosse for the most carnival victories when he takes on Highland Reel and Max Dynamite with another of the French Vase hopes Tiberian.
He finished behind Max Dynamite when seventh in the Melbourne Cup.