Moore’s For Reel

Highland Reel's decisive win

The greatest jockeys can sense and seize an opportunity a fraction of a second before their opponents, and Ryan Moore did so to decisive effect on Saturday to steer Highland Reel to a one-and-a-quarter length victory in the Gr1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Highland Reel in HK

Highland Reel seen in work in Hong Kong

It took 149 seconds to complete the one-and-half miles and Moore had the race in his grasp from the first stride, as he sent Highland Reel straight into the lead.

Had Postponed, last year’s winner, not been ruled out earlier in the week, he would have had a pacemaker in the race but, in his absence, Moore grabbed the initiative and squeezed a little tighter with every furlong that passed.

Ryan Moore -

Ryan Moore – perfectly judged ride

With more than a mile to run, Moore’s rivals allowed him to build a five-length lead, and while the gap closed as Highland Reel’s rider gave him time to catch his breath, he was guaranteed the first run in the straight and only Wings Of Desire, the sole three-year-old in the race, offered any hint of a threat in the final quarter-mile. Dartmouth, attempting to give the Queen her second winner of the race named after her parents, was third, ahead of Sir Isaac Newton and Erupt.

“It was just an option [to make the running] but I didn’t know how it was going to play out,” Moore said. “There were a couple that could be ridden forward. He hit the gates well, landed in front and everyone wanted to get a lead.

“The ground was against him last time [when second to Dartmouth in the Hardwicke Stakes] and it was his first run off the back of Hong Kong [in April]. He was entitled to come on for it and quick ground is very important to him.”

Aidan O'Brien

Aidan O’Brien

Aidan O’Brien, who has now won the King George four times, expects Highland Reel to be aimed towards the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in November, on what seems sure to be fast ground.

“He has pace, he loves it fast and he can go anywhere over a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half,” O’Brien said. “He could go to the Breeders’ Cup, or Australia or Hong Kong, he has a lot of options. We knew he wouldn’t mind making the running, he killed them in the Secretariat [Stakes at Arlington Park last August] making the running.

“It was some run last time on soft ground, he goes on it but he’s not a soft ground horse. At a mile and a half, he’s very strong tactically.”

Highland Reel was cut to around 6-1 for the Breeders’ Cup Turf and can also be backed at 16-1 for the International Stakes at York next month but US Army Ranger, the runner-up behind Harzand in the Derby, seems more likely to represent O’Brien’s stable in that race.

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