11/05/2016 8:40PM

Highland Reel all the way in Breeders' Cup Turf

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Justin N. Lane
Highland Reel (right) and jockey Seamus Heffernan win the Breeders' Cup Turf by 1 3/4 lengths Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Midway on the backstretch of Saturday’s $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita, Highland Reel had a comfortable lead that rapidly became insurmountable. Highland Reel led by more than two lengths on the first turn, an advantage extended to 6 1/2 lengths on the final turn.

For Irish jockey Seamus Heffernan, a simple game plan was working brilliantly.

“I was happy to make the running,” Heffernan said. “I kicked when I thought I should kick. He’s brave in front, and when you turn him loose, he’ll go.”

Highland Reel’s lead was too much for a stellar chasing pack. Leading by four lengths with a furlong to go, Highland Reel held off Flintshire, the leading turf-marathon runner in the United States, to win the richest race of his career.

Highland Reel ($9.60) ran 1 1/2 miles on turf in 2:23, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Flintshire, the 9-5 favorite, finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of Found, the winner of the 2015 BC Turf at Keeneland and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly Racecourse on Oct. 2.

Highland Reel and Found are trained by Aidan O’Brien for Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor, and Sue Magnier. Highland Reel gave O’Brien a record sixth win in the BC Turf, all since 2002.

Highland Reel was third in the Arc and was rated as a BC Turf candidate by his owners following that race, O’Brien said. The tactics of taking the 4-year-old colt to the lead were planned in advance.

“We know he gets the mile and a half very well,” O’Brien said. “We know that he handles fast ground. He doesn’t mind dictating. He doesn’t mind sitting in.”

Flintshire had the best finish of an American-trained runner. Ulysses, based in England, finished fourth, followed by Ashleyluvssugar, the dominant turf-marathon runner in California in recent months.

Money Multiplier was sixth, followed by Texas Ryano, Ectot, Ralis, Twilight Eclipse, Da Big Hoss and Mondialiste.

The BC Turf was likely the final start for Flintshire and Found.

Flintshire, who won three graded stakes this year in New York, was fourth with a half-mile remaining and closed well to be closest to the winner at the finish.

“He ran a great race,” trainer Chad Brown said. “I’m disappointed no one went with Highland Reel early. To leave a class horse alone on a loose lead, he made everyone pay.”

Teddy Grimthorpe, the racing manager for owner Juddmonte Farms, said Flintshire will go to stud in Kentucky at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm.

Found is also likely to go to Kentucky to be bred, O’Brien said. He said final plans have not been made. She was as far back as 11th after a half-mile in the BC Turf and closed steadily to finish four lengths behind Highland Reel.

“She ran a super race,” jockey Ryan Moore said. “The winner is a good horse. When he’s allowed to go loose like that, he’s difficult to catch.”

Highland Reel, a colt by Galileo, is likely to start in the Hong Kong Vase on Dec. 11, O’Brien said. In 2015, Highland Reel won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in his only appearance of the year in the United States, finished third in the $2.1 million Cox Plate in Australia in October, and won the Hong Kong Vase at 1 1/2 miles last December.

Highland Reel won the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July, his only win in seven previous starts this year. In his career, Highland Reel has won 7 of 19 starts and earned $7,300,647. There is more that can be accomplished – in the coming months and next year, Tabor said.

“The future for Highland Reel, I think, is very rosy,” he said. “I think he’ll carry on racing and hopefully keeping the same form as he’s been this year.”