Thursday 29 September 2016

Moore the Reel deal in King George glory

Greg Wood

Published 24/07/2016 | 02:30

Highland Reel, ridden by Ryan Moore, goes on to win the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascothaving finished runner-up on. Photo: PA
Highland Reel, ridden by Ryan Moore, goes on to win the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascothaving finished runner-up on. Photo: PA

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 at Ascot to steer Highland Reel to a one-and-a-quarter length victory in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

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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.

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, 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.

Frankel recorded five of his 14 career victories at this track, and the greatest racehorse in living memory secured the first Group winner of his new career as a stallion when Fair Eva routed her field in the Group Three Princess Margaret Stakes.

In all, eight foals from Frankel's first crop have now made it to the racecourse, and seven of those have recorded at least one success. Fair Eva's performance, though, was another significant step forward and was stamped with Group One quality throughout.

Roger Charlton's filly, in the same pink and green colours of Khalid Abdullah that were carried by her sire, cruised through the first three furlongs and pulled her way to the front two out before powering four lengths clear at the line. It was no surprise to see Fair Eva soon promoted to the head of the market for next year's 1,000 Guineas, and she is now top-priced at 5/1 to give the Frankel line a swift Classic success.

"Secretly, yes," Charlton said, when asked if he had expected such a convincing success. "Realistically, no, because you can't let yourself think like that.

"But she's done everything really professionally, she looks very good and I thought her performance at Haydock [in June] was really exciting. We didn't know what she was beating that day, and as it turned out, she beat some good fillies."

The seven-furlong Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh in September, a Group One event, is a possible target for Fair Eva, although the Group Two Lowther Stakes at York in August could offer a more gradual advance through the ranks.

Librisa Breeze is due a step up in grade after winning the Gigaset International Stakes, while Apex King emerged victorious in the Wooldridge Group Pat Eddery Stakes.

The latter race, better known as the Winkfield Stakes, was run for the first time in memory of the peerless jockey following Eddery's death last November. A plaque at Ascot was also unveiled by his children in honour of the great man.

The jockey's daughter Nicola Eddery said: "The whole day is quite emotional. I still can't believe he is not here."

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