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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Highland Reel dominates Breeders' Cup Turf for Aidan O'Brien

Published 05/11/2016 | 23:51

Highland Reel
Highland Reel

Highland Reel continued the European domination of the Breeders' Cup Turf as Seamus Heffernan produced a masterclass from the front at Santa Anita for Aidan O'Brien.

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Heffernan got to the head of affairs early on and controlled matters beautifully on the King George hero, with Arc-winning stablemate Found towards the rear in the hands of Ryan Moore.

On the run to the top of the stretch, the gap had become a significant one and with no signs of the leader stopping, it was Flintshire to throw down the biggest challenge, but he was never getting there.

Found, who knuckled over slightly on leaving the stalls, came home to good effect to take third.

Heffernan, bagging his first Breeders' Cup success, said: "I was on a horse that handled the conditions well, the tight track and the fast ground. He is straightforward and is very sound, and he stays hardy.

"If given the choice I'd have ridden Found, it's nice to be on the team and nice to get the opportunities. I have a lot of people to thank."

O'Brien - striking at the top level for the 22nd time this year to move within three of the record set by the late Bobby Frankel - said: "Seamie has given this horse a star ride.

"The horse has thrived every month this year, and I would like to mention a big word for David who rides him out at home - he has done an incredible job.

"Nobody knows all the big horses better than Seamie, who is a master of his craft. He is in his early 40s but he is still getting better and nobody deserves it more than him.

"Highland Reel was at his heaviest weight ever, and he looked super special. He knows this horse so incredibly well, he handles the fast ground and he executed it brilliantly."

On plans for the winner, O'Brien said: "He will stay in training next year and go for all the top middle-distance races on the international spectrum, but he isn't finished yet this year, as he is in the Japan Cup and a race in Hong Kong.

"The Japan Cup is in three weeks and the Hong Kong race is six weeks away - he could take in one of those or he could possibly do both. We will take him home and see how he is."

O'Brien confirmed Found would now head for a deserved retirement.

He said: "Ryan was delighted with Found, he wasn't over-hard on her on her last race before retirement and she has been a great asset to us. She has been a very special mare."

Part-owner Michael Tabor said: "This track and the ground, everything suited him. This is the race we hoped he'd be able to run in and sometimes it works out."

Ulysses was fourth for Sir Michael Stoute and Frankie Dettori, who teamed up to win the Filly & Mare Turf earlier in the evening with Queen's Trust.

Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners Flaxman Stables Ireland Limited, said: "We were delighted with the run, because he is essentially a horse to look forward to and he will be bigger and stronger next year."

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