Highland Reel and Ryan Moore stick close to the rail in the King George
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Report: Ascot, Saturday
King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Group 1) 1m4f, 3yo+
NOBODY can say they were not warned – the evidence was in the formbook. Highland Reel is a mightily dangerous horse to give the lead to. He can be darned difficult to beat no matter the company or the continent.
As a three-year-old he proved it to the Americans in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in Chicago, dictating throughout on his way to an impressive success.
There was more of the same at Sha Tin in the Hong Kong Vase last December – even though he was headed before halfway that day, he still got back in front in the final furlong.
Stuart Riley’s ‘Big-race tactics’ preview in the Racing Post on Saturday highlighted the lack of any other front-runner in the field for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes and warned: “Ryan Moore may well take control of the race and dictate his own fractions.”
Punters’ confidence fully justified
The key words there, of course, were ‘Ryan Moore’. It is one thing to jump out to the front and make the race your own when that race is a Wolverhampton claimer and defeat will be forgotten almost before the result is in the paper.
It is quite another to do it in the most prestigious 1m4f race of the British summer, the sort of race in which the difference between victory and defeat could be an extra nought on the end of the stud fee in years to come.
But Moore’s record shows he is the man for the big occasion. Punters have never lost faith with him and Highland Reel was backed into 13-8 favourite to get his revenge on Dartmouth, who had beaten him a head in the Hardwicke Stakes over this course and distance last month.
Their confidence was fully justified as Moore delivered a masterful ride.
He had Highland Reel in front from the off, setting no more than a steady pace, then gradually wound things up and threatened to slip the field before giving his mount a breather around halfway.
Moore kicked on again in the straight yet kept enough in reserve to hold Wings Of Desire off by a length and a quarter. It is testament to the way he rode the rest of the field out of the race that Frankie Dettori on the runner-up had been second throughout and nothing else could reach a challenging position.
It was a second King George win for Moore, who took it on Conduit for Sir Michael Stoute in 2009, and the rider said: “He is a straightforward horse who runs a mile and a half well and loves fast ground.
“He is slightly underrated because he won in Hong Kong and beat a very good horse that day.
“He made it easy for me. He was very comfortable and when he felt Wings of Desire come to him and I got stuck into him he found plenty.”
Aidan O’Brien, landing his fourth King George after Galileo, Dylan Thomas and Duke Of Marmalade, added: “He is a unique horse really. So versatile and will travel anywhere. He is getting better both mentally and physically and can go anywhere between a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half.
“Ryan gave him a great ride and said going out he was happy to make it.”
Breeders’ Cup target
Where Highland Reel goes next has yet to be decided, with O’Brien having plenty of options for the top middle-distance contests.
Derby runner-up US Army Ranger is being aimed at the Juddmonte International and the trainer said: “We have lots of different options for different horses – Minding is going to Goodwood – and Highland Reel would definitely have the Breeders’ Cup Turf over a mile and half later in the season on fast ground.”
Paddy Power go 6-1 (from 12) about the winner triumphing in America. Again.
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