Breeders' Cup - At The Races

Highland Reel

Highland Reel
  • Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
  • Likely Jockey: Ryan Moore
  • Owner: Derrick Smith & Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor
  • Age & Breeding: 5-year-old horse; Galileo - Hveger
  • Season Form Figures: 71143
  • Career Highlight: Beating stablemate Found in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Turf.

Now aged five and still an entire horse, it's possible that Highland Reel's remarkable racing career is coming to an end and a new one as a stallion is about to begin. As tough and as successful as he is under-rated, it is unfortunate that Highland Reel looks to lack the flashiness to make him a commercial success at stud. At a time when the breeding industry prefers precocity and speed, a place amongst Coolmore's National Hunt roster may be the best he can hope for.

Not that Highland Reel is slow. Indeed, it was his pace, and a brilliant ride, that won him last year's Breeder's Cup Turf. And this season, Highland Reel has added a European Group 1 over ten furlongs to his impressive list of wins.

Having run a rare bad race over slick ground on his seasonal debut in Dubai, Highland Reel bounced back to land the Coronation Cup at Epsom in gritty fashion, and arguably took his form to the next level when landing the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. The placed horses, Decorated Knight and Ulysses, have franked the form and the victory appeared in no way fortuitous.

Two defeats have since followed, but they do not tell the full story, and there is every reason to believe Highland Reel is as good as ever.

Even allowing for Britain's unpredictable climate, it would have been difficult for connections to have envisioned the ground coming up soft at Ascot in July. Yet the King George was run in driving rain and under leaden skies, the rain softened ground and the widest trip of all ensuring there would be no repeat of his 2016 victory in the same race. Soft ground meant that Highland Reel missed an intended run in the Arc but, unraced since the summer and with suitable prep races running out, Aidan O'Brien was ultimately forced to run the son of Galileo in the Champion Stakes.

While no match for the brilliant Cracksman, Highland Reel ran a fantastic race. Again racing widest of all, Ryan Moore headed under the trees, exploring the 'Bahri' route for better ground, albeit with no chance of finding any of Highland Reel's favoured firm lurking amidst the otherwise soft turf. Highland Reel plugged on for third, just missing second, despite not being hit with the whip and looking uncomfortable on the going. The betting market – where you could find the multiple G1 winner at 15-1 in the morning – is another clue that this was merely meant as a tune up before the real goal on November 4.

Nevertheless, this was a fine prep race and Highland Reel has twice shown himself to be perfectly suited to American racing – indeed, a tight, firm course looks to be where he does his best work. Likely to be delivered to the minute by his peerless trainer, he looks to have an outstanding chance of joining High Chaparral and Conduit to become the third back-to-back winner of the Turf.