highland reel

Highland Reel Horse

Highland Reel was a brilliant global flag bearer for Aidan O’Brien’s all-conquering Ballydoyle stable in County Tipperary, Ireland.

The son of mighty Coolmore sire Galileo (out of Danehill mare Hveger) was foaled on February 21, 2012.

He would go on to race 27 times around the world - most of those outings at the very highest level. He would register 10 victories - including success in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States and Hong Kong. Highland Reel also finished second on six occasions, and third in three further races.

Known for his toughness as well as his class, he was a superb racehorse and is now expected to become a top stallion for the Coolmore operation.

Highland Reel Racing Career Highlights

As already detailed, Highland Reel racked up 10 victories during his glittering globe-trotting time on track. In the process he scooped more than £7.5million in prize money for connections.

Probably the highlight of Highland Reel’s top-class career was a superb victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2016. The son of Galileo also claimed two massive UK prizes in 2017, coming out on top in the Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

To prove his toughness and ability to cope with racing anywhere, he twice won the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin - in 2015 and 2017.

Highland Reel 2014 - 2yo

Highland Reel’s mouthwatering pedigree suggested he would be a success when he took to the racetrack, and having been sent to Aidan O’Brien’s powerful Ballydoyle yard, he did not disappoint.

He would race three times as a juvenile, in June and July of 2014. Highland Reel’s debut came in a Leopardstown maiden. He wasn’t even the most fancied of the O’Brien contingent (sent off 6/1), but shaped promisingly under Seamie Heffernan to get within three-quarters of a length of Dermot Weld’s winner Tombelaine.

O’Brien’s juveniles often improve significantly from their debut, and Highland Reel was sent off the hot 8/15 favourite to lose his maiden tag at Gowran Park on July 1, 2014.

This time Joseph O’Brien, son of trainer Aidan, was in the saddle and the pair scooted clear to claim an impressive 12-length victory with Kevin Prendergast’s Taqaseem a disant second.

Next time out Highland Reel was stepped up to Group company and raced outside Ireland for the first time as he lined up for the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. News of Highland Reel’s prowess had travelled across the Irish Sea with him and he was sent off the 10/11 favourite under Joseph O’Brien. He duly lived up to the hype, quickening well to score comfortably from Richard Hannon’s Tupi by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

Highland Reel 2015 – 3yo

Highland Reel’s Classic campaign began in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Longchamp on May 10, 2015. In hindsight the one-mile trip was probably inadequate for the Ballydoyle raider, and despite being sent off the 11/8 favourite under Ryan Moore he could finish only sixth behind the impressive winner - Andre Fabre’s Make Believe.

Later in May 2015 Highland Reel would return to France, this time for the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly. The 1m 2f 110yds trip was much more to his liking and despite being sent off at 10/1 he was a highly creditable one-and-a-half-length second to another Fabre runner New Bay.

Highland Reel returned home for his next run, in the Irish Derby at the Curragh on June 27, 2015. He was sent off the 11/4 second favourite but disappointed badly, labouring home in fifth behind the hot favourite Jack Hobbs after sweating up beforehand.

The O’Brien star was dropped in class after his Irish Derby flop, and duly bounced back to winning ways at Glorious Goodwood, running out a comfortable winner of the Group 3 Gordon Stakes under Joseph O’Brien having been sent off the 7/4 favourite.

August 15, 2015 brought the first real sign of the glory which awaited Highland Reel as he notched his biggest victory so far, on foreign soil. The Ballydoyle raider - sent off 12/5 under Seamie Heffernan - dictated right from the off and destroyed a quality field to win the Grade One Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park by five-and-a-quarter lengths.

Next time out Highland Reel had a tall order against a high-quality field in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 12, 2015. Sent off at 16/1 he had no answer to the likes of subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners Golden Horn and Found and Prince of Wales’s stakes hero Free Eagle. Finishing a close-up fifth was no disgrace however.

Highland Reel had two more jaunts around the globe in his three-year-old career, travelling down to Australia for the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. But, sent off at 7/1 under Ryan Moore, he had no answer to the Australian wonder mare Winx as she raced to a brilliant victory. Highland Reel was beaten five-and-a-half lengths into third.

Hong Kong was the setting for Highland Reel’s final outing as a three-year-old and he rounded off his season in style by beating the highly talented Flintshire to win the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. Ryan Moore took him to the front inside the final furlong and he kept on well to score at odds of 5/1.

Highland Reel 2016 – 4yo

Highland had been a really good three-year-old, but his exploits at four would easily eclipse his achievements so far. His 2016 campaign started with defeat in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March as he faded after leading for most of the 12-furlong trip, finishing fourth under Ryan Moore behind Roger Varian’s Postponed.

Next came another foreign trip, back to Sha Tin for the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup on April 24. Highland Reel produced one of his most disappointing displays to trail in 8th of 13 under Ryan Moore behind Werther.

Highland Reel bounced back to something like his true form when next sent to Royal Ascot for the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes on June 18, 2016. Sent off at 6/1, he sweated beforehand, raced keenly in the early going and then had jockey Seamie Heffernan drop his whip in the closing stages. But despite that he battled hard, only going down by a neck to Her Majesty The Queen’s Dartmouth.

Revenge was sweet for Highland Reel just over a month later when he was sent back to Ascot again to once more lock horns with Dartmouth - this time in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes - one of Europe’s most prestigious races. Aidan O’Brien’s colt was clearly expected to take his first win as a three-year-old - he was heavily backed and went off the 13/8 favourite. Highland Reel did not disappoint his backers, leading for every yard of the 12-furlong trip and staying on strongly for Ryan Moore to beat John Gosden’s Wings of Desire by one-and-a-quarter lengths to scoop the first prize of more than £689,000. Dartmouth meanwhile could finish only third.

Another major Group One bid was next for Highland Reel as he went north to York’s Ebor meeting for the 10-furlong Juddmonte International. He was sent off at 6/1 and performed creditably to finish a one-and-a-quarter-length second to Roger Varian’s Postponed (6/4f).

September brought another Irish Champion Stakes tilt, but again the field was star-studded and again Highland Reel found it too big a task, finishing 7th behind French winner Almanzor under Colm O’Donoghue.

O’Brien was not deterred by that though and sent Highland Reel over to France to contest the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly. And the son of Galileo, ridden by Seamie Heffernan, outperformed odds of 20/1 to finish a highly creditable second to brilliant stablemate Found.

November 5, 2016 at Santa Anita would turn out to be perhaps the highlight of Highland Reel’s career. He would face recent Arc winner and stablemate Found, the brilliant Flintshire and subsequent Juddmonte International hero Ulysses in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Ridden by Seamie Heffernan, the pair set a modest pace out in front before quickening around seven lengths clear at halfway. The rest of the field made the fatal miscalculation of thinking they would easily make up the ground. They were wrong as Heffernan and Highland Reel maintained their advantage to come home in front of Flintshire and Found. It was a ride of some genius by Heffernan, with the plan executed perfectly by his willing mount. The result was just under £1.5million prize money.

The Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin would again bring the curtain down on Highland Reel’s season, but this time the Irish raider could not quite pull off the victory. Having been sent off the 1/2 favourite, he found Satono Crown too good by half a length.

Highland Reel 2017 – 5yo

Highland Reel was kept in training as a five-year-old, a plan which yet again paid off handsomely for O’Brien and the powerful Ballydoyle operation. The season didn’t start auspiciously though as the 5/2 shot, ridden by Ryan Moore, made his debut in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March and again disappointed, finishing last of seven behind Jack Hobbs.

But a miserable March was only the prelude to a joyous June for Highland Reel as he claimed Group One glory twice in the United Kingdom, first justifying 9/4 favouritism under Ryan Moore to beat Frontiersman in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.

Just 19 days later Highland Reel would produce an even better performance, showing real guts and class to hold off Decorated Knight in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

A month later in July Highland Reel was back at Ascot to bid for a repeat success in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. But, sent off at 9/2 under Ryan Moore, he was no match for the brilliant Enable and could finish only fourth beaten just over nine lengths.

The Qipco Champion Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot would prove to be Highland Reel’s UK swansong, and he and Moore had no answer to the spectacular winner Cracksman, eventually coming home in third.

O’Brien and Coolmore hoped Highland Reel could add another chapter to his brilliant career by repeating his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar on October 4, 2017. But the doughty globe trotter, sent off the 11/10 favourite, was just run out of it into third behind the flashy French colt Talismanic.

Highland Reel’s career finale would be back at Sha Tin on December 10, 2017, one of his happiest hunting grounds. And he did not disappoint, getting his revenge on Talismanic by one-and-three-quarter lengths to win the Hong Kong Vase for a second time.

Highland Reel Stallion

After such a glittering career on track, Highland Reel was not surprisingly expected to be a hit at stud as well. He was sent to Coolmore in County Tipperary for the 2018 breeding season to stand at an initial stud fee of €17,500. His fee would remain the same for the 2019 season.

Highland Reel’s first sons and daughters were born in early 2019 and should see the racetrack in 2021.

Training Highland Reel

Highland Reel was owned by Sue Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor and ran in the colours of Derrick Smith. He was trained at Ballydoyle in County Tipperary by Aidan O’Brien for the entirety of his racing career.

Highland Reel was ridden by multiple jockeys during his career - Ryan Moore, Joseph O’Brien, Seamie Heffernan and Colm O’Donoghue all had the honour of being in the saddle.

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