Making the final start of his globetrotting career, Highland Reel turned the tables on Longines Breeders' Cup Turf winner Talismanic in the Longines Hong Kong Vase (G1) Dec. 10 at Sha Tin by 1 3/4 lengths.
The Vase, occasionally a stepchild in the four-race group 1 program of the Longines Hong Kong International Races, this year was a jewel with credible contenders from France, Japan, and England.
Jockey Ryan Moore quickly positioned Highland Reel right behind the early leader with Talismanic shadowing him. Highland Reel, a 5-year-old son of Galileo, easily took the lead turning into the stretch, repelled a determined challenge from Talismanic midway to the finish and drew off clear to the victory.
Tosen Basil, representing Japan, closed to get home third with Hong Kong runner Chemical Charge a surprising fourth and Gold Mount in fifth.
Max Dynamite and Tiberian, third and seventh in the Emirates Melbourne Cup Nov. 7, finished sixth and 11th in the Vase. Smart Call, a South African champion mare now trained in England, was seventh. Kiseki, winner of the Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger (G1), faded from a stretch bid to get home ninth.
The 2,400-meter (1 1/2-mile) Vase, worth HK$18 million (US$2.3 million), was run over good turf in 2:26.23.
Talismanic, a 4-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro trained in France by Andre Fabre for Godolphin, denied Highland Reel's bid for a second straight Breeders' Cup crown by a half-length Nov. 4 at Del Mar, with Hghland Reel finishing third. In the Vase, by contrast, Highland Reel never appeared at risk even at the height of Talismanic's challenge.
"I was always happy and always confident," Moore said of Highland Reel's run. "He's the sort of horse when he gets into a fight, he's usually going to win it."
"I was in an ideal position all the way, where I wanted to be and close enough to Highland Reel," said Talismanic's rider, Maxime Guyon. "I waited as long as I could as he only has a short run. But I couldn't get by him."
Highland Reel goes to stud now as the winner of 10 of 27 lifetime starts—seven of those victories in group 1 or grade 1 races. He won the Vase in 2015 and was second, caught on the wire, in the 2016 edition. He also won top-level races in England and the United States.
"He's irreplaceable, really," said Aidan O'Brien, who trains the son of Galileo for the Coolmore partners and scored his record 28th top-level win of the season. "He's a very special horse. We were lucky to get another year out of him at age 5. And at 2, 3, 4, 5—he's had winners all the way."
O'Brien said Coolmore's hopes for international group 1 glory now pass to Highland Reel's younger full brother, Idaho. The 4-year-old colt was recently a good fifth in the Japan Cup in Association with Longines (G1) in Tokyo and O'Brien said he was "very pleased" with that run, which followed lesser efforts in top-level races in the U.S., France, and Canada.
"We were concerned that he had traveled before without much success," O'Brien said of Idaho. "But that showed he can do it."