Satono Crown gets up to beat Highland Reel (rail) n the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase
Image supplied by Hong Kong Jockey Club
Highland Reel was agonisingly denied a second successive win in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase as Satono Crown cut him down in the final furlong at Sha Tin this morning.
There was a strong European challenge for the first of the big races from the Hong Kong International meeting, over 1 ½ miles.
A field of 14 went to post, including last year’s winner and subsequent King George and Breeders’ Cup winner Highland Reel.
At the break it was Eastern Express who broke best and led early doors, but Highland Reel and Ryan Moore, racing cleat, were soon in front.
Passing the post with a circuit to race, Highland Reel held a clear lead from Eastern Express and Helene Happy Star, while there was plenty of scrimmaging to the inside.
Highland Reel led down the back, with Big Orange going up to join him with 5 furlongs to race, but Michael Bell’s runner was soon back pedalling.
With three furlongs to race Highland Rell came under pressure but found more turning for home, going three lengths clear of Eastern Express.
However, only Satono Crown emerged from the pack.
It became a two-horse race down the home straight, as the Japanese runner and Joao Moreira ate into Highland Reel’s lead and waning powers.
Satono Crown got there in plenty of time and landed the spoils by around ½ a length, with the French runner One Foot In Heaven coming home third, ahead of another Japanese runner Nuovo Record.
“It’s a dream come true to achieve the full house,” he said. “I thought this horse was a very good chance before the race and the feeling that he gave me on the track the other day was great, so I knew I had a lot of horse underneath.”
Moreira said: “I was always confident I would get there.
“I got behind a horse that was dragging me back instead of taking me forward, so I had to wait a little bit, get on the fence and track the French horse ridden by Maxime Guyon (Silverwave),” Moreira explained. “Once I was able to get him on the outside and get a clear run, I could feel that he was full of himself and was going to dash home.
“The way he won today, he’s shown that he’s got a lot of talent. He beat a world class horse in Highland Reel and being his rider today is a blessing.”
The victory was a second for Japan in the Vase, 15 years after Stay Gold triumphed for Yasuo Ikee and Yutaka Take. It also provided Japan’s champion trainer Noriyuki Hori with a second LONGINES HKIR win after Maurice’s Mile title 12 months ago.
“We had been considering this race and after his performance in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) we decided to make this a priority,” Hori said, “We’re happy that the horse has been able to come through and perform at his best.
“This horse was at a very high level even as a two-year-old, winning a Group race. We’ll now take time to look at the horse and take time to talk to connections and discuss what this horse’s next race will be.”
Aidan O’Brien was satisfied with Highland Reel’s effort, coming at the end of a 12-month span that has seen the horse race 10 times in six countries.
“He ran very well, he’s had a long season but he ran a great race – he ran his heart out. He’s had a phenomenal season,” the Ballydoyle handler said.
Moore added: “He’s run very well, a cracking race given the pressure. But it’s disappointing to get beaten. We pulled a long way clear – the winner is a good horse.”
The front two drew six and three quarter lengths clear of the field. The Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe sixth One Foot In Heaven was best of the rest in third.
“Leaving the stalls it was quite a rough race early on and there was a lot of movement all through the race,” said jockey Christophe Soumillon. “I got out OK but all through the race there were jockeys fighting for the same spot. It was a fine effort but the first two were a class above.”
Japan’s Nuovo Record, second in last year’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), was a further three quarters of a length back in fourth.