Globetrotting superstar Highland Reel defends his Hong Kong Vase crown and once again looks to hold all the aces in what looks sure to be a race run at a fierce tempo.
Over the longest distance raced in Hong Kong (2400m) the HK$16.5 million Hong Kong Vase tends to be run at a strong pace and on a fast track that generally favours on the pace runners. Highland Reel is ideally suited by these conditions and last year raced prominent or on the lead throughout before quickening in the final 200m. With the presence of front runners The Big Orange and Helene Happy Star along with Anticipation and Eastern Express there is no shortage of pace this time around and Highland Reel should be ideally suited.
European runners have dominated this race with only 2013 winner Dominant breaking the sequence in the last ten years. Highland Reel will look to emulate Doctor Dino (2007 and 2008) with back to back successes which would further add to the reputation of this remarkable global traveller.
The four-year-old heads here in brilliant form with a second place in the remarkable 1-2-3 for Aidan O'Brien in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe followed by success in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. His year concludes here which has already seen runs in the UAE, Hong Kong, Ireland, USA plus three times in the UK. Other notable runs on those travels include a win in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and a fine second to Postponed in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York.
Highland Reel's consistency under such different conditions makes him hard to oppose and the son of Galileo is almost certain to be justifiably well clear of his opposition in the betting.
Japanese runner Nuovo Record ran a fine second here last year behind A Shin Hikari in the Hong Kong Cup but was below her best in her first four runs this campaign before a brilliant back to form success in the Grade 3 Red Carpet at Del Mar. She looks to come off the pace and may need some luck in running and while her season form leaves her with plenty to find with Highland Reel she would be the most likely to benefit if the favourite fails to run anywhere near his best.
Silverware will look to continue a superb record in this race for French trained horses and he boasts six wins from 14 starts. The four-year-old colt was in excellent form earlier this campaign in France with Group 1 and 2 wins on good ground before a disappointing 13th in the Arc, which not only leaves him with plenty to find with Highland Reel but also leaves questions about the quicker ground he will encounter here.
Big Orange is another likely to be towards the top of the betting behind Highland Reel and is now well known to Australian punters following his second try at the Melbourne Cup and a latest third in the Zipping Classic. However, he remains a horse who relishes dominating UK races over two miles and with an uncontested lead unlikely it is hard to see how at this trip he could match the speed and acceleration of Highland Reel.
Follow The Longines Hong Kong International Racing live on Sky Thoroughbred Central and Sky Racing 1 on Sunday.