Highland Reel headlines Hong Kong Vase runners

THE international competitors for next month’s Hong Kong Vase have been all but finalised after the import tally was cut to 12 ahead next month’s group one race.

Irish invader Highland Reel and Japanese star Kiseki headline the early betting ($3.75) at Ladbrokes for the December 10 feature.

Former Australian galloper Eagle Way ($8 at Crownbet) will be the only representative from down under after Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources decided suspend direct movement of horses between the two territories over concerns about equine disease from China.

Melbourne Cup placegetter Max Dynamite is at the $15 quote at Ladbrokes while fellow Cup competitor Tiberian ($12) is also towards the top of the market.

Hong Kong Jockey Club’s executive director of racing business and operations Tony Kelly said racing in Sha Tin continues to exponentially grow.

“It is great to see such strong contenders from Europe, Asia and North America heading to Hong Kong.

“Last year’s occasion was about as good as it gets: Maurice, Beauty Only, Aerovelocity and Satono Crown each were brilliant winners of exciting races, but Hong Kong never rests on its laurels. The depth of quality in the four races this year means that we can look forward with certainty to another great day of sport on the second Sunday in December.”

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The six-year-old Highland Reel is a deserved favourite heading into the race after a brilliant 2017 calendar year.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained horse took out back-to-back group one races in the UK, winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs before winning the $1.2 million Prince of Wales’s Stakes 19 days later at during the Ascot Racing Carnival.

The winner of the 2015 Hong Kong Vase returns in what could be its racing swansong looking to atone for last year’s second placing behind a fast-finishing Satono Crown.

Highland Reel would become just the third horse in history to win the race more than once and the first galloper to take out the event in non-consecutive years.

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