Highland Reel went gate-to-wire in the $450,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 15 at Arlington International Racecourse, quickening away brilliantly after showing the way to win by 5 1/4 lengths under jockey Seamie Heffernan.
Video: Secretariat S. (G1T)
Highland Reel came off a solid win July 29 in the 1 1/2-mile Neptune Investment Management Gordon Stakes (Eng-III) at Goodwood and cut back to 1 1/4 miles in his first North American start to claim his greatest career victory to date.
Heffernan summed up the race, which was run through a steady rain, in simple terms—"I didn't see much pace and he won easy."
After clicking off a quarter in :24.53, a half in :50.09, three-quarters in 1:14.72 and a mile in 1:39.01, the Galileo colt carried on to finish in 2:02.26 on firm turf for trainer Aidan O'Brien, who collected his fourth Secretariat win. Highland Reel races for Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor.
"There was so little pace in the race, if we couldn't make the lead and then make all, we didn't deserve to win," said T.J. Comerford, assistant to O'Brien.
Off the 2-1 second choice in a field of seven 3-year-olds, Highland Reel paid $6.80, $4.80, and $3. He was followed home by Closing Bell ($11.20, $4.80) and Belmont Derby (gr. IT) winner Force the Pass ($2.40), who made a huge move late from last under jockey Joel Rosario but wound up headed for second by WinStar's maiden winner.
"When they opened the gate, he went straight up in the air," Rosario said of Force the Pass's slow start. "He can be like that and be nervous. He made a good run."
Highland Reel was bred in Ireland by Hveger Syndicate out of the Danehill mare Hveger and was a $777,486 purchase by John Warren Bloodstock from the Camas Park Stud consignment at the 2013 Tattersalls October yearling sale. He improved his record to four wins and two seconds from eight starts, for earnings of $854,823.
Comerford indicated that Highland Reel could follow a similar path as last year's Secretariat winner Adelaide and point toward the Oct. 24 W.S. Cox Plate (Aus-I) in Australia.