At the end of the day, it’s a horse race. Some nominated Maurice as the day’s sure thing in the Longines internationals, for many others it was Highland Reel.
One landed, one didn’t, but trainer Aidan O’Brien was neither disappointed nor second guessing whether the Hong Kong Vase was pushing the envelope a step too far after the four-year-old had flown 130,000 kilometres this year to race nine times in six different countries from Ireland to Dubai to Hong Kong to the United Staes.
Along the way, he’s won a King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and a Breeders’ Cup Turf before returning On Sunday to defend his win in the 2015 Vase, the first win for O’Brien in Hong Kong.
Typically guarded with the press, O’Brien said Highland Reel had not let anyone down.
“I’m delighted with him. He’s at the end of a long, hard season. He’ll enjoy his winter break and hopefully we’ll start him back next year,” he said.
“I thought he ran very good race. We had some amazing horses this year like Found and Minding, but Highland Reel is amazing to have done what he did.”
Perhaps he was more expansive talking to Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht Bresges.
“I think Aidan was very happy with the horse’s performance. He told me you always worry if the horse will be flat after all the travelling he’s done,” said Engelbrecht-Bresges.
“But, in the end, he ran one of his best races after getting a lot of pressure in front from Big Orange.
“He beat the rest of the field by nearly seven lengths and he was beaten by only one horse – so you could hardly say he didn’t turn up.
“There was just something there to beat him in the circumstances. Aidan is enjoying coming here and I hope he’ll support us with even more horses in the future.”