Highland Reel makes the Cox Plate look good in Hong Kong

Impressive win: Irish jockey Ryan Moore riding Highland Reel, left, to victory in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. Photo: Vincent Yu Saluting the crowd: Irish jockey Ryan Moore celebrates after his win on Highland Reel. Photo: Vincent Yu

Cox Plate-placed Highland Reel might have been around the world this year but the three-year-old saved his best for last, winning the Hong Kong international Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday.

The Coolmore-owned colt secured his second group 1 win fighting back to beat Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe runner-up Flintshire by 1-1/2 lengths with French filly Dariyan a similar margin back in third.

It is a tremendous boost for Australian racing considering the Cox Plate form, where Highland Reel was 5-1/2 lengths in the wake of Winx, can favourably be compared with Arc form, which is considered the world’s greatest race.

Coolmore Australia boss Michael Kirwan’s disappointment from the Cox Plate was turned around and he was full of praise for trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore.

“This proves what you can do if you travel a horse. You can do it and you can win with the right horse,” Kirwan said. “He has been to America and won [the Secretariat Stakes] back to Ireland and out to Australia. He hasn’t missed a beat.

“Aidan took him home again after the Cox Plate and he has arrived here and produced his best. It is a remarkable training performance and was matched by an amazing ride from Ryan [Moore].

“We can be more confident in bringing the right horses to the world.”

Moore took up the front on Highland Reel from barrier rise and had controlled a slow tempo until Harbour Master whipped around in the back straight to put speed into the race.

By the top of the straight the leader was a beaten horse, as Flintshire, which was looking for consecutive Vase wins, loomed large and Highland Reel hit a flat patch. Moore was able to drive through that and level up on the inside of Flintshire before proving the better stayer.

“He is quite professional this bloke and was relaxed going down the back but then Harbour Master wanted to get on with it and it changed the plan a bit,” Moore said. “Flintshire is a very good horse and when he came by me, I thought he was in trouble but he dug in.

“He might only be a three-year-old but he is a hardened horse and a very good horse.”

Australia’s representative Preferment got back in the field, which was not ideal in the slowly-run race and plugged home into seventh.

“He wasn’t disgraced in my eyes and we might be back next year,” trainer Chris Waller said.

It was the host that ruled the roost in the Hong Kong International Sprint as Peniaphobia lead all the way from a wide to tip out favourite Gold Fun and former Australian-trained Not Listenin’tome.

It was another display of the genius of Joao Moreira, who chalked up his 300th Hong Kong winner, on the four-year-old, whose name means the fear of poverty.

“He’s a brilliant horse, and today he won in great fashion. He gave me a beautiful ride, he’s so professional,” Moreira said. “I had to use him early from the outside draw, but everything went fine afterwards.

“I’m just thankful to the connections for giving me the opportunity to ride him. He has to be one of the best horses in Hong Kong.”

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