Highland Reel marks farewell with win in Hong Kong

Sha Tin: Highland Reel brought his illustrious career to a close in fitting style by winning the Longines Hong Kong Vase at the 2017 Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin. Highland Reel, a 5-year-old son of Galileo (IRE), easily took the lead turning into the stretch, repelled a determined challenge from Talismanic midway to the finish and inched clear to the victory.

Japan's Tosen Basil finished third, three-quarters of a length behind Talismanic, while Ralph Beckett's Chemical Charge fared best of the British raiders in fourth. "He dug in over the last furlong and I thought he was comfortable and going away at the finish", Moore said.

Melbourne Cup third placegetter Max Dynamite ran a creditable sixth in the race. Kiseki (JPN), victor of the Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger (G1), faded from a stretch bid to get home ninth.

The five-year-old, who won this race in 2015, was challenged by Andre Fabre's Talismanic but held on for a seventh Group One victory in his farewell race.

The mile-and-a-half Hong Kong Vase, worth about $2.3 million, was run over good turf in 2:26.23.

Highland Reel isn't the only star in the Coolmore camp's galaxy of talent but has clearly worked his way into the heart of head trainer O'Brien, for whom one word kept coming up when it came time to pay tribute to his departing stayer - "irreplaceable".

"I was always happy and always confident", Moore said of Highland Reel's run. He's the sort of horse once he gets into a fight, he's nearly always going to prevail.

Maxime Guyon added: "Talismanic ran a very good race". "It's very rare that you get a horse that can travel like him".

Highland Reel goes to stud now as the victor of 10 of 27 lifetime starts-seven of those victories in group 1 or grade 1 races.

The Andrew Balding-trained Blond Me was squeezed out at the start and could not get back on terms, eventually finishing last of the 12 runners. We were lucky to get another year out of him at age 5.

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 United States of America, will soon begin his new career as a Coolmore Stud stallion. "He's a very special horse. And at 2, 3, 4, 5-he's had winners all the way".

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