Breeders' Cup Turf rematch set for Hong Kong Vase

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December 7th, 2017

European runners have dominated the $2.3 million Hong Kong International Vase (G1) since the 1 ½-mile race was first run in 1994, and with Talismanic and Highland Reel in this year’s contest they may well do so again.

The pair fought out the finish of the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) over the same trip at Del Mar, with Talismanic taking advantage of a rails run and a firm track to win. The Godolphin-owned, French-trained Talismanic may well get the rails run again, having drawn barrier one, and his connections will be hoping for another firm track.

Highland Reel puts up great efforts whenever the track is firm, and Hong Kong is no exception. He backed up from his Cox Plate (G1) third behind Winx to win the Vase in 2015, and last year he followed his Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) victory at Santa Anita with another great effort, being run down in the last few yards by Japan’s Satono Crown.

Highland Reel hasn’t had as much luck in 2017 with firm ground, but put in an improved effort at the Breeders’ Cup and he should be tough to beat in what is expected to be his final start.

Five other European-trained horses are in the field. Max Dynamite and Tiberian both back up from the 2-mile Melbourne Cup (G1), where they finished third and seventh, respectively; Tiberian may be the better suited of the pair to 1 ½ miles. Also running from Europe are September Stakes (G3) winner Chemical Charge, Cumberland Stakes (G3) victor Danehill Kodiac, and Prix Jean Romanet (G1) fourth-place finisher Smart Call. All five probably need below-par efforts from Highland Reel and Talismanic to be winning chances.

Japan’s best chance of winning again is the 3-year-old Kiseki, who has won three of his last four races.

Two starts back Kiseki finished second in the 1 ½-mile Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2) behind Derby winner Rey de Oro, who subsequently finished second in the Japan Cup (G1). Kiseki didn’t contest the Japan Cup, instead going for the 1 7/8-mile Kikuka Sho (G1, Japanese St Leger), coming from well back to win on heavy ground. He is on the improve and is a serious chance, especially if rain hampers the two favorites.

Also from Japan is Tosen Basil, who finished second to Smart Layer in the Kyoto Daishoten (G2) Oct. 9. He would need to improve to win, but Japanese horses have done that before in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong chances rest with the former Queensland Derby (G1) winner Eagle Way, Jockey Club Cup (G2) fourth-place finisher Gold Mount, and the out-of-form Helene Charisma. Eagle Way looks the best of them.

If the track is firm it’s hard to go past Highland Reel and Talismanic. Kiseki is probably the best of the rest and would be a stronger chance if there is rain, along with Tiberian and Max Dynamite.