Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 21 January 2018

Reel backed to score Down Under

Highland Reel is now a 7/2 shot for Australian glory
Highland Reel is now a 7/2 shot for Australian glory
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Curvy's lucrative success in Canada on Sunday night could herald a frenzied few weeks for Irish raiders on the international scene.

David Wachman had already plundered the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot with his Galileo three-year-old.

After successive defeats at the Curragh, York and Belmont Park, the Co Tipperary-based handler targeted Woodbine in a bid to end her quest for a breakthrough Group One.

Curvy duly ran out a ready winner of the EP Taylor Stakes under Ryan Moore to become Wachman's first winner on the North American continent since he broke his duck with Luas Line at Belmont Park 10 years earlier.

Moore also took the card's other Grade One on Michael Stoute's Cannock Chase.

His global exploits at this time of year habitually tend to confirm his status as the world's most consummate Flat jockey.

That reputation could be further enhanced come Saturday, when Moore and Aidan O'Brien will seek to replicate their 2014 Cox Plate heroics with Highland Reel.

A year ago, Moore was inspired in bringing Adelaide through from a perilously wide draw on the tight, turning Moonee Valley track.

This time, Adelaide has been drawn favourably in stall four, after which he was cut to clear favouritism for a $3m 10-furlong event that is Australia's most prestigious weight-for-age Grade One.

A 10/1 shot earlier in the month, Highland Reel is now as low as 7/2 to secure glory.

Like Adelaide, he won the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington before running well in defeat behind Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Tellingly, Moore is skipping Doncaster's Racing Post Trophy meeting to partner Highland Reel. "We've got barrier four, so it's up to Ryan now," Coolmore's Australian spokesman Tom Magnier said yesterday. "The horse has travelled throughout Europe and around America; he is here and well and now we just need a bit of luck."

The absurd situation that saw the jockeys' championship in Britain conclude on Saturday before the country's last Group One was run has added to the sense of disorientation caused by the morphing of the seasons at this time of year.

There is a tangible changing of the guard this weekend, with Cheltenham opening its gates on Friday and the domestic turf campaign concluding at Leopardstown on Sunday.

There promises to be a decent Irish delegation on duty at the two-day Prestbury Park meeting and a decent English equivalent is pencilled in for the two-day November Handicap spread at the Foxrock venue.

However, racing fans will be in a fluster again on Saturday week, with Down Royal's Champion Chase and Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase followed by the Breeders' Cup in Keeneland. The Cork Grand National is on Sunday week, followed by the Melbourne Cup the morning of Tuesday, November 3.

Gleneagles and Found are among those that could form a Ballydoyle team running close to double figures in Keeneland. Dermot Weld has also yet to rule out the Turf for Free Eagle.

The Melbourne Cup demigod has nothing for Flemington this time. In his stead, O'Brien, whose latest Melbourne Cup foray in 2008 ended acrimoniously when he and his riders' tactics and integrity were questioned by the stewards, will fly the Irish flag along with Willie Mullins.

O'Brien's Bondi Beach and Kingfisher will be joined by Mullins's facile York hero Max Dynamite.

In 2007, O'Brien's Mahler ran third in the "race that stops a nation" and Simenon was fourth for Mullins in 2013, 10 years after Holy Orders' recalcitrant behaviour earned him celebrity status Down Under.

Both men have had contrasting experiences of the great race, then, so it is surely only a matter of time before one of the equine geniuses masters it.

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