Highland Reel has already landed a couple of big international prizes
PICTURE: Four-Footed Photos
HIGHLAND REEL, the sole British or Irish runner among a 13-strong field in Sunday’s Audemars Piguet QEII Cup at Sha Tin in Hong Kong, has delighted Aidan O’Brien’s travelling assistant Pat Keating all week in his lead-up work, and on Thursday landed a plum barrier gate for the mile and a quarter, HK$20 million (£1.655m) event.
Keating, who went second in the random draw for starting positions, expressed himself ”very happy” after he had picked stall six for the Ryan Moore-ridden four-year-old, who will be attempting to follow up his December course success in the Longines Hong Kong Vase over two furlongs farther.
“All options are open to him,” Keating added. “He made the running in the Vase before he was taken on by another horse, and he set the early pace in the Dubai Sheema Classic last time, but he doesn’t have to lead. I’m sure Aidan and Ryan will have a plan.”
Highland Reel, beaten just over four lengths into fourth place behind Postponed at Meydan last month, has come back from Dubai in good form, according to Keating, who added: “He’s a very easy-going horse and has travelled well here. If he puts in his best form, he’s sure to take some beating.”
Ertijaal drawn out wide
Sheikh Hamdan’s Australian-bred Ertijaal, trained by Mike de Kock, who also comes into the race after running on Dubai World Cup night, was less fortunate with the draw, slotting into stall 11, having had only two outside him when a closing fourth to Real Steel in the Dubai Turf.
Trainer’s son Mathew de Kock said: “He’ll need a bit of luck from there, but we’ll leave it to his jockey Douglas Whyte to decide on tactics. Douglas has not been a multiple champion in Hong Kong for nothing, and that’s why we’ve put him up.”
The race has attracted the last three winners – John Moore-trained Military Attack (now with Caspar Fownes) and Designs On Rome, and Blazing Speed, whom Tony Cruz is saddling in a bid to become the first back-to-back winner since Japan’s Eishin Preston in 2002-03. Moore also runs the recent Hong Kong Derby winner Werther and the Hong Kong Vase fifth Helene Happy Star.
1 Lovely Day (trained Y Ikee, Japan; ridden J Moreira); 2 Designs On Rome (J Moore, HK; T Berry); 3 Blazing Speed (A Cruz, HK; N Callan); 4 Rising Romance (D Hayes, Australian; D Lane); 5 Werther (J Moore, HK; H Bowman); 6 Highland Reel (A O’Brien, Ireland; R Moore); 7 Nuovo Record (M Saito, Japan; Y Take); 8 Satono Crown (N Hori, Japan; Z Purton); 9 Military Attack (C Fownes, HK; N Rawiller); 10 Horse Of Fortune (A Millard, HK; K Teetan); 11 Ertijaal (M de Kock, UAE; D Whyte); 12 Helene Happy Star (J Moore, HK; B Shinn); 13 Helene Super Star (A Cruz, HK; B Prebble).
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