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Champions Series Stars To Stud: Highland Reel

13 Dec 2017

In the latest of our series we reflect on the tremendous career of Aidan O'Brien's globeterotter

Career details:

The Aidan O’Brientzqfrbdrdxfwcdurbs-trained globetrotter developed into among the toughest and most popular horses in training.

He was also one of the biggest earners in the sport, scooping his connections £7.5 million in prize money – more than any other European-trained horse in history.

The Galileo colt had already struck at the highest level in America and Hong Kong before making his mark on the QIPCO British Champions Series and landing the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July 2016.

This year he went go on to land two more Series prizes – the Investec Coronation Cup and Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

On the first occasion he and several stablemates were held up by plane problems en route to Epsom and, according to O’Brien, Highland Reel only had time for a “quick pee” before going to post but it did not stop him being as good as ever.

He was also fourth in this year’s King George and third in the QIPCO Champion Stakes (both times on soft ground that was against him) plus he was runner-up to Postponed in last year’s Juddmonte International Stakes at York.

In total, Highland Reel ran in 27 races – no fewer than 22 of them being at Group One or Grade One level. He won on ten occasions and was placed in nine others.

Fittingly, on his final start, he won a second Longines Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. He was typically tenacious to win going away after looking vulnerable.

His other exploits on foreign shores included winning the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in 2015, the Hong Kong Vase later in the same year (he was also runner-up in the 2016 edition) and the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2016 (third in the 2017 renewal).

He was also second in the 2015 French Derby and beat all bar Found, his stablemate, in the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Highland Reel’s career as a two-year-old seems a long while ago now but is worth recalling he won the Group Two Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in 2014.

He would often get warm and edgy before his races – meaning he would not always take the eye in appearance – but these traits never affected him.

Perhaps he lacked a wow factor – he was not the type to coast home hard on the bridle – but his never-say-die attitude made him a formidable opponent wherever he appeared and his thirst for racing was never quenched.

He was a credit to his trainer and contributed three Group One wins to his record haul of 28 in 2017.

Career highlight:

There were many outstanding moments for Highland Reel – in victory and defeat – but perhaps his finest hour came when winning the Group One Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot this summer.

Highland Reel featured among a high-class field of eight and was the well-supported 9-4 favourite.

His supporters must have feared the worst when Ulysses and Decorated Knight loomed up to challenge but Ryan Moore asked Highland Reel for more and, typically, his mount responded and repelled the challengers in a tremendous renewal after trading at 37-1 on Betfair in-running.

By the finishing line, Highland Reel was firmly on top and he won by a length and a quarter from Decorated Knight, who clung on to second by a short head from Ulysses.

Highland Reel was never awarded a rating higher than 123 but there was nothing wrong with the form of his win at the royal meeting.

Decorated Knight had previously won two Group One races in 2017 and went on to land the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, while Ulysses subsequently won the Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International plus was placed in the King George and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He ended his career rated 127.

What they said:

After Highland Reel won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2017, Aidan O’Brien said: “He is an incredible horse. Pace, courage, tactical speed, he has everything.

“He has passed every test that you would want a thoroughbred to go through. His first Group race was as a two-year-old and we have toured the world with him since then. Every time, he turns up in big races over a mile, 10 furlongs and 12 furlongs, he has a great mind and has passed all the tests everywhere he goes – he is an amazing horse.

“He is like his sire Galileo because he also had so much courage and he has passed it on to Highland Reel ten-fold.

“He has been racing at the top level for the last few years. Sometimes he gets beat, but if the pace is strong and if it comes anywhere near courage, then he will be there fighting. He has danced every dance. I’m not sure we have ever had a horse with the constitution that he has.”

After his final race, when winning a second Hong Kong Vase, Ryan Moore said: “This is a really fitting way for him to finish. He’s been a brilliant racehorse and there’s plenty to look forward to at stud now.

“He’s a very, very good horse, his record shows that. It’s been a delight to be a part of it [his career].”

Where he will stand:

Highland Reel will join the mighty Coolmore breeding empire.

His stud fee for 2018 has been set at €17,500, which many might consider good value. It is half of what it will cost to send a mare to his former stablemates Australia, Camelot, Caravaggio and Churchill.

What should we expect from his offspring?:

Just about everything and anything – and do not be put off backing them if they happen to get sweaty in the paddock beforehand.

Bred on the same potent Galileo/Danehill cross as Frankel and Teofilo, Highland Reel ticks all the boxes – speed, stamina, class, pedigree, handsome looks and, of course, utter toughness.

If he can can pass on even on even half of his courage and will to win to his progeny then he will not be doing too bad.

Champions Series Stud – previous essays:

Almanzor

Caravaggio

Galileo Gold

Wings Of Eagles

Persuasive