HIGHLAND REEL WINS SECRETARIAT
MVRC Likely To Extend Cox Plate Invitation To Aidan O’Brien-Trained Colt
Highland Reel (Galileo) ran out a dominant winner of the Secretariat Stakes (Gr 1, 10f) at Arlington Park for trainer Aidan O’Brien on Saturday but connections are yet to commit to taking up the colt’s nomination in the Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m).
O’Brien took the race 12 months ago with the subsequent Cox Plate winner Adelaide (Galileo) and Highland Reel demonstrated he has every chance to follow in his former stablemate’s footsteps with a hugely impressive performance.
The victory is likely to earn Highland Reel an invitation to the Cox Plate from the Moonee Valley Racing Club, with Racing Victoria’s Leigh Jordan confirming he will meet with the club to discuss the matter today.
“Moonee Valley will be deciding whether to send out an invitation and that could happen as soon as (today),” said Jordan. “He’s already nominated for the Cox Plate and obviously he would be taking the same route as Adelaide last year.
“He was very impressive and he looks the perfect horse for the race. He can travel and quicken, he ticks all the boxes. It would be very exciting if he could come down.”
However, Aidan O’Brien yesterday told ANZ Bloodstock News the Ballydoyle team are yet to decide whether Highland Reel will travel to Moonee Valley in October but he will continue to follow the path taken by Adelaide last year, with the Prix Niel (Gr 2, 2400m), in which the now Coolmore based stud sire finished third last year.
“Highland Reel was very impressive in the Secretariat Stakes,” O’Brien said. “He showed a terrific turn of foot for the sprint home and he was given a superb ride by Seamie Heffernan.
“The plan now is to give him a rest and he will be trained for the Prix Niel, a major Arc trial. We will reassess it after that race but the Cox Plate and the Arc would very much be on the radar.”
Should O’Brien opt for the Cox Plate, trainer John O’Shea, whose Contributer (High Chaparral) is among the leading domestic hopefuls, believes Highland Reel would be very competitive.
“The Arlington Million meeting has always been a very good guide to the top weight for age races in Australia and that was a devastating performance by Highland Reel,” he told ANZ Bloodstock News.
“I know the Coolmore boys were keen to look at coming for the Cox Plate if he ran well and he certainly did that. Without having analysed his form in great depth, he looks to be a very talented horse who will be very hard to beat in a Cox Plate.”
Ridden by Seamie Heffernan, who was having his first ride in the United States, Highland Reel was sent straight to the front in the driving rain in Chicago and was never seriously threatened, setting his own easy fractions, with the opening quarter covered in 24.53.
The Australian Bloodstock-owned Goldstream (Martino Alonso) was settled in third place by Brenton Avdulla and he made his move three wide turning for home but Highland Reel was not for passing.
Heffernan kicked for home upon straightening and stole first run on his rivals, pulling away in impressive fashion to score by five and a half lengths in a time of 2:02.26.
“There was so little pace in the race, if we couldn’t make the lead and then make all, we didn’t deserve to win,” said TJ Comerford, assistant to O’Brien. Heffernan added: “I didn’t see much pace, and he won easy.”
Closing Bell (Tapit) was the closest of Highland Reel’s rivals, finishing second, a head in front of favourite Force The Pass (Speightstown), who appeared to blow his chances when missing the break.
“When they opened the gate, he went straight up in the air,” said jockey Joel Rosario. “He can be like that and be nervous; he made a good run.”
Goldstream, who could now sidestep the Melbourne Spring Carnival to target Group One races in Europe, stayed on to take fourth place and Avdulla said: “He ran good but the tempo wasn’t very quick. I think the tight turns were tough on him and he wasn’t used to going left-handed after running his races right-handed.”
Highland Reel (3 c Galileo – Hveger by Danehill) has now won four of his eight career starts and became the 47th Group or Grade One winner for Coolmore’s champion sire with the victory. The colt came into the race on the back of a determined win in the Gordon Stakes (Gr 3, 1m4f) at Glorious Goodwood on 29 July and also finished second to New Bay (Dubawi) in the Prix du Jockey Club (Gr 1, 2100m) earlier this year.
The colt’s pedigree features strong Australian influences, being out of the South Australian Oaks (Gr 2, 2500m) runner-up and Australasian Oaks (Gr 1, 2000m) third Hveger (Danehill), who is herself a sister to the multiple Group One winner Elvstroem (Danehill) and a half-sister to Haradasun (Fusaichi Pegasus).
He was purchased for 460,000gns at the 2013 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale Book One by John Warren Bloodstock from the draft of Camas Park Stud. His full sister has been catalogued for this year’s sale.