Dubai: Godolphin were denied a record 19th Group 1 victory of the season when French star Talismanic finished second behind the mighty Irish raider Highland Reel, in the Hong Kong Vase, one of the highlights of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s most prestigious international race meeting held at the picturesque Sha Tin racetrack.
A winner of the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at the beach town of Del Mar, California last month, Talismanic, ridden by Maxim Guyon, appeared to be closing the gap on Highland Reel approaching the final 200 metres of the 12 furlong contest. But it was not to be. Highland Reel, ridden by Ryan Moore for top Irish handler Aidan O’Brien, still had plenty in the tank and he stuck on gamely to win by a length and a half from the Godolphin horse.
Godolphin were looking to break their record of 18 Group 1 wins in a calendar year, an accomplishment that they achieved in 1999. Saeed Bin Surour saddled the outstanding Daylami to win four Group 1s that memorable year, with victories in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, King George at Ascot, Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Gulfsteam Park. The same year Kayf Tara won the Irish St. Leger at the Curragh.
The third horse home at Sha Tin on Sunday was Japanese challenger Tosen Basil, a further three quarters of a length back in third of the 12 runners.
Guyon acknowledged that he was beaten by a better horse on the day.
“Talismanic ran a very good race. I had a perfect run — I followed the winner and came through smoothly,” he said.
“Last time when he won the Breeders’ Cup, the track was better for him as the finishing straight was shorter than here.
“He has a good turn of foot but for a short spurt, so I waited as long as I could. He came well again today, but 100 metres out he stopped a little bit.”
Lisa-Jane Graffard of Godolphin added: “Talismanic is a very honest horse, gave his best and ran a very good race. There were no excuses — Talismanic was just beaten by a better horse on the day.
“We will get him home and let him recover from his exertions before making any plans, but he should be a great horse for an international campaign again next year.”
Meanwhile, it was a fitting finale for Highland Reel, who was running the last race of an illustrious career during which he raked in an incredible £7,513,355 in prize money. It was his seventh Group 1 win of his career encompassing four seasons in training and 13 starts outside Britain and Ireland. Highland Reel raced in France, Australia, Dubai, the USA and made four visits to Hong Kong.
Moore said: “He’s high-class with a great attitude and very durable. He’s raced all around the world and his consistency marks him out — he always runs his race and is a pleasure to ride. Hopefully he’ll pass it on [to his progeny].”
Trainer Aidan O’Brien, who was enjoying a 28th top-level success in 2017, paid tribute to his stable star saying: “It’s very rare you get a horse who can travel like him. Every year he has travelled the world. He’s an incredible horse.
“He’s irreplaceable. Where do you get a horse who did what he did? But he has to go to stud at some time.
“He’s had a lot of highlights — he’s done it at two, three, four and five. To win at the top all the way along and finish at a place like this, with an atmosphere like this, is incredible.”
Moore added: “He’s always been a very straightforward horse and gets the trip well. He’s got a lot of good tactical speed and I was always happy and confident. Once he gets into a fight he’s probably going to prevail. He dug in during the last furlong and was going away again at the finish.”