Highland Reel bounced back to his battling best to land the Group One Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom.
Aidan O’Brien‘s horses had to endure an arduous journey to Epsom Downs after their plane was delayed leaving Ireland and Highland Reel arrived the course just 75 minutes before the QIPCO British Champions Series race was due off.
The plane’s fuel cap was missing and fuel was spilling out over the wing.
There were no such dramas in the £420,000 event as jockey Ryan Moore elected to make the running with the five-year-old and made every post a winning one with a fine front-running ride.
The 9-4 favourite was briefly challenged by Hawkbill two furlongs from home but both Moore and Highland Reel dug deep and the pair stayed on strongly as Hawkbill’s challenge weakened, which left the fast-finishing Frontiersman to stay on to claim the runner-up spot.
Moore was full of praise for Highland Reel’s battling qualities following the race.
“He’s been a great horse for connections and a great horse to be associated with,” the jockey said. “He’s tough more than anything. He always finds more when you ask him. He’s just a pleasure to ride.”
O’Brien was winning his eighth Investec Coronation Cup and outlined the day Highland Reel had endured because of the plane problems.
“He never showed any softness in his life. He’s been travelling since 4am this morning and has only been here an hour,” the trainer said. “He didn’t have a lot of time to do anything – he had his piddle, got washed off and then came into the paddock.
“Things weren’t going smoothly but everyone was doing their best and did a great job. Thanks to everybody involved.
“Highland Reel is an amazing horse. Tactically, he has speed and he stays. He’s very versatile. He could run in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot if he needs it and maybe then on to the King George.”
Charlie Appleby was delighted with the performance of his Godolphin-owned duo Frontiersman, who had been supplemented for £25,000, and Hawkbill.
The former will be considered for the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot while he will seek softer ground for Hawkbill.
“I’m not going to keep boring people with the same story, but he needs soft ground,” Appleby said. “It wouldn’t worry me coming back in trip either and William [Buick, jockey] said he’s got a gear there but the winner [Highland Reel] is a good horse.
“What this horse does do is quicken on soft ground and that catches a few of the others out, he can’t do the same on this ground.”