Maurice and Highland Reel seem like the perfect travellers, for whom fly-in, fly-out Group One missions have became the norm – now, if we could just train the two headline acts to speak to media.
Press conferences featuring star trainers and jockeys, packed with a record number of accredited media hanging off their every word have been one of the real success stories for the Jockey Club this week.
Conspicuous in their absence though have been representatives from the meeting’s two biggest stars – Hong Kong Cup favourite Maurice and Hong Kong Vase top pick Highland Reel.
Maurice’s trainer Noriyuki Hori attends mandatory press calls in Japan but given the option by Jockey Club officials he chose not to front the eager reporters this week, which included 102 members from his home nation.
Hori’s superstar also stayed behind closed doors in quarantine on Friday after a solid piece of work 24 hours earlier, but the trainer released a statement saying all was well with the muscular type, along with Vase contender Satono Crown.
“They trotted a bit in the quarantine area before practising in the gate. Everything went soothingly. Everything is going as planned,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hori’s Hong Kong Mile entrant Neorealism worked on the turf under star jockey Ryan Moore.
“We sent him out for a light gallop this morning,” Hori said. “This is his first time travelling abroad, so it has taken him a bit longer to adjust to his new surroundings. Since it is just two days before the race it wasn’t a hard work, just a light tune up. We wanted Ryan to get a feel for the horse and to let the horse get used to the cheekpieces that he will use on Sunday.”
With Highland Reel’s trainer Aidan O’Brien not arriving until late on race-eve, Coolmore wasn’t asked to provide a spokesperson to front media this week either and when Highland Reel won the 2015 Vase there were no representatives there to answer questions post-race.
This week, it was left to the stable’s travelling foreman Pat Keating to provide an update on the four-year-old, who arrives at the end of an outstanding season that included a convincing last start win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
“He is just a straightforward horse with no complications,” said Keating, an accomplished and articulate horseman that fronted for some interviews, but still a reluctant media identity.
“He travelled over great, he has settled in brilliantly and we are very happy with him.
“It’s a Group One race and there are no easy ones, we will need a little bit of luck, but he is in great form. He is a very consistent horse and he seems very much the same as last year. It’s just as important for horses to be able to travel as it is for them to be a good horse but he is both.”