King George hero Highland Reel angling for world domination
The continent of Europe can be now ticked off the list of places that Highland Reel has struck at the highest level after he made all of the running to claim victory in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
With wins at the top table in Asia and North America, the jetsetting four-year-old triumphed on soil much closer to home when he benefited from a masterful front-running ride from Ryan Moore.
While the race lost some of its gloss earlier in the week following the defection of ante-post favourite and last year's winner Postponed, the Aidan O'Brien-trained son of Galileo, himself a King George winner in 2001, left punters with a smile on their face after he justified his position as the 13-8 market leader.
Highland Reel quickly took up his position at the head of the field, where he was followed through by Erupt and Derby fourth Wings Of Desire.
After he put several lengths between himself and his rivals down the back straight, Moore gave his mount a timely breather inside the fifth furlong before he kicked on again down the home straight.
In a race in which ultimately few managed to land a significant blow, Wings Of Desire attempted to go with the winner inside the final furlong in bid to set up a pulsating finish.
But Highland Reel proved a length and a quarter too strong for Wings Of Desire, with the Queen's Dartmouth, the winner's Hardwicke conqueror at the Royal meeting, a further two and three-quarter lengths back in third.
O'Brien, winning the race a fourth time, said: "I'm delighted for everyone involved that they left him in training.
"He is an amazing horse. He travels the world and loves racing. Physically, he is getting better and, mentally, he is a rock.
"He has pace and loves fast ground but he went in soft ground at Royal Ascot.
"We were over the moon with his run that day. He is a horse that can go anywhere from a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half.
"We knew he didn't mind making the running. He is very happy to make the running.
"If he is left in front, he is happy. If there is pace on, he is happy. He is a very unique horse, really.
"He can go to the Breeders' Cup Turf, he can go to Australia, Hong Kong or Japan.
"He has got an awful lot of options."
A drop back in trip in next month's Juddmonte International at York could be on the cards for John Gosden's Wings Of Desire.
Hugo Lascelles, racing manager to owner-breeder Lady Bamford, said: "He has come on from the Derby and the ground was more in his favour. I am really proud of him.
"We might look at the Juddmonte or the Prix Niel (Chantilly) and we can think of the Breeders' Cup at the end of the year, as well.
"He will remain in training next year."
Options abroad may also be pursued by connections of the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Dartmouth.
John Warren, racing manager to The Queen, said: "He is a genuine, trustworthy horse that tries his best in this company.
"I've a notion that he might be an international traveller. He loves that fast ground so there is the Breeders' Cup, Australia and Japan.
"We will just freshen him up but he is in good hands. We will talk it through, and as long as The Queen is happy to travel with him and we will see where we go.
"The Queen is delighted."