Making the final start of his globe-trotting career, Highland Reel gained a measure of revenge on his conqueror in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf a month earlier, defeating Talismanic in the Longines Hong Kong Vase Dec. 10 at Sha Tin by 1 ¾ lengths.
The Vase, occasionally a stepchild in the four-race Group 1 program of the Longines Hong Kong International Races, this year was a jewel with credible contenders from France, Japan, and England joining the top two from the Breeders' Cup.
Jockey Ryan Moore quickly positioned Highland Reel right behind the early leader with Talismanic shadowing him. Highland Reel easily took the lead turning into the stretch, repelled a determined challenge from Talismanic midway to the finish and inched clear to the victory.
Tosen Basil, representing Japan, closed to get home third with Hong Kong runner Chemical Charge a surprising fourth.
The mile-and-a-half Hong Kong Vase, worth about $2.3 million, was run over good turf in 2:26.23.
Talismanic, a 4-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro trained in France by Andre Fabre for Godolphin, denied Highland Reel's bid for a second straight Breeders' Cup crown on Nov. 4 at Del Mar, where he won by a half-length over Beach Patrol with Highland Reel another neck back in third. In the Vase, by contrast, Highland Reel never appeared at risk even at the height of Talismanic's challenge.
"I was always happy and always confident," Moore said of Highland Reel's run. "He's the sort of horse when he gets into a fight, he's usually going to win it."
"I was in an ideal position all the way, where I wanted to be and close enough to Highland Reel," said Talismanic's rider, Maxime Guyon. "I waited as long as I could as he only has a short run. But I couldn't get by him."
Highland Reel goes to stud now as the winner of 10 of 27 lifetime starts – seven of those victories in Group 1 or Grade 1 races. He won the Vase in 2015 and was second, caught on the wire, in the 2016 edition. He also won top-level races in England and the United States.
"He's irreplaceable, really," said Aidan O'Brien, who trains the 5-year-old son of Galileo for the Coolmore partners and scored his record 28th top-level win of the season. "He's a very special horse. We were lucky to get another year out of him at age 5. And at 2, 3, 4, 5 – he's had winners all the way."–Bob Kieckhefer