Following a striking performance in the United States' Breeders' Cup Turf at the beginning of November, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Highland Reel has returned to the Sha Tin Racecourse in hopes of a repeat victory in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase. Contested over approximately the same distance as the Turf at 2400 meters (1 1/2 miles), the HK$16.5 million Vase (~US$2.1 million) will be held on Sunday.
Last year, the Coolmore-owned Highland Reel defeated defending champion Flintshire to give O'Brien his first victory in the Vase. In 2016, the 4-year-old son of Galileo has reeled off big performances for most of the season. He finished fourth in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, second in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes, won the G1 QIPCO King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, second in the G1 Juddmonte International, and finished second to stablemate Found in the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Overall, the Coolmore-owned colt has seven wins from 19 starts in eight different countries, for earnings of over US$7.2 million.
“He is a great traveller, and I can tell you that when he arrived here at Sha Tin, his head came up, he looked about him, and he knew exactly where he was,” said O'Brien's traveling head lad Pat Keating. “He's well and I've no worries about him, everything is good.”
Another recent winner in the United States is an intriguing entrant in the Vase. Japanese-bred Nuovo Record, a 5-year-old daughter of Heart's Cry (Sunday Silence), won Del Mar's G3 Red Carpet Handicap on Nov. 24. The mare is undefeated over the Vase distance of 2400 meters, and already has a race over the Sha Tin course, finishing second in last year's 2000m Hong Kong Cup. As one of two females in the contest, Nuovo Record will receive a four-pound weight allowance.
“We gave her a decent tune-up today over the all-weather course,” said groom Hideyuki Obara. “She is in excellent condition and didn't lose any weight on her trip from the United States. She is a fantastic shipper and is very relaxed. We'll have a light work over the turf tomorrow before galloping her on Thursday.”
For more information, as well as daily trackwork updates on all the major contenders in the Longines Hong Kong International races, be sure to follow the Hong Kong Jockey Club on Twitter.
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