It’s good to keep in the top performers table showing a healthy 40% strike rate leading up to the Christmas holiday. Dan Skelton’s Rene’s Girl (9/4) won well for us at Ludlow on Wednesday and looks a Novice Hurdler to keep on the right side with this winter. At Kempton Park on Wednesday night Soofiah (11/10) landed the Max gamble for us without coming off the bridle for Saeed Bin Suroor and shaped with a good deal of promise.
The Aidan O’Brien trained Highland Reel rewrote the record books in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin Racecourse last weekend. The Ballydoyle bay not only became the first three-year-old colt to triumph in the 2,400-metre contest, but also gave absent trainer Aidan O’Brien his first-ever Hong Kong victory.
And the length and a half triumph also ended a long LONGINES Hong Kong International Races drought for Ireland, stretching back to the Jim Bolger-trained Alexander Goldrun’s win in the 2004 Hong Kong Cup.
“He did it all very easily, he’s turned into a good horse,” said winning jockey Ryan Moore. “He’s improved immensely since the start of the year.”
“He’s had a hard schedule but he keeps getting better. When Flintshire came by me I thought I was in trouble but as soon as that horse folded a little bit he dug in and the way he’s improved through the year, it’s quite something.”
Moore guided the smart-breaking Highland Reel to the vanguard as the field of 13 rolled into the first turn. Once there, the Englishman steadied the tempo, and, with the field crawling along the back stretch, Tommy Berry decided enough was enough, sweeping his mount, Harbour Master, around the field to lead at the 1200m mark.
“I was always happy to let him bowl along at his own pace and if someone else wanted to lead that was fine but he gets away very well, he’s very professional. He was going quite nicely down the back then Harbour Master wanted to get on with it and I had to change the plan a little bit,” said Moore.
With Cirrus Des Aigles posted second outside the new leader, Moore settled Highland Reel into a tracking third. Turning for home, Vincent Cheminaud made his move outside Highland Reel on the race favourite and 2014 winner, Flintshire. The French colt loomed four wide on the turn and with Moore already pumping away on Highland Reel – and the front two faltering – it looked like a repeat of last year’s result was on the cards.
But after hitting the lead with 300m to race, Andre Fabre’s stable star was soon feeling the squeeze. Moore’s power-packed drive took Highland Reel beyond his emptying rival and the Irish colt drew away for a decisive triumph.
“I got into him and got him balanced in the straight and as soon as he got into a battle he really wanted it,” said Moore. “Flintshire is a very high class colt and takes some beating in these races, so I think it was a very good performance from my horse.”
“He’s had plenty of experience around the world and he’s only a three-year-old but he’s a hardened three-year-old now.”
The winning time was 2m 28.43s. The Andre Fabre-trained five-year-old Flintshire kept on for second as the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Dariyan, another three-year-old colt, ran home a further length and a half back in third. At Ascot on Saturday I pass on a good word for Saphir Du Rheu in the Long Walk Hurdle and Pendra will go close in the Sodexo Silver Cup Chase on the same fixture.
Yours In Sport.
Back Next Thursday.
Kevan Minter – The Colonel.