Why don’t Australians pay Highland Reel respect?

Highland Reel wins Hong Kong Vase
Highland Reel retires as an all-time great following Sunday’s Sha Tin win. Picture: HKJC.

BY any stretch of the imagination Highland Reel will retire as one of the all-time greats of the thoroughbred scene.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained galloper has recorded seven top-tier titles, culminating in a career second win in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase in its final-ever race, becoming just the third horse in history to do so.

The six-year-old now enters retirement following Group 1 wins in England, America and Hong Kong, as well as placing in Australia’s Cox Plate and France’s Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe.

It’s a truly enviable record by any stretch of the imagination.

This begs the question though; why doesn’t Highland Reel recieve the respect it deserves down under?

A quick Twitter search on Highland Reel focused on Australia will almost certainly yield a result comparing the horse to Winx given the wondermare crushed the Irish invader in the 2015 Cox Plate.

If we set a horse’s standard to one run over its entire career however, our hall of fame would need to eliminate almost all its inductees.

We took a look at why Aussie punters don’t rate the O’Brien horse up among the all-time greats and explain exactly why they should.

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Highland Reel lost to Winx – so what?

Many Australians point to the 2005 Cox Plate when they talk about Highland Reel’s career, highlighting the fact that the Irish invader failed to get the job done against the wondermare Winx.

There are a few mitigating circumstances in the run here.

Winx lovers will never point out that the winner got a saloon passage through to the lead and got an ideal ride by Bowman, or they will avoid acknowledging the fact that this was Highland Reel’s first and only start in Australia.

Not only that, but Highland Reel carried 56kg into the race, whereas other three-year-olds in that event lugged around 49kg in the weight-for-age event. Yes, the horse had six months on other three-year-olds, but that does not change the fact it competed as a 3yo.

Would we have seen a different race had the Irish galloper carried 7kg less?

We have all seen what Winx has gone on to do since that magnificent Cox Plate win, so how about we stop citing the 2015 loss as a reason to hate on Highland.

Wins almost anywhere it went

The big knock on Winx from overseas pundits is the unwillingness to take the horse outside of Australia, but the same criticism could never be leveled at Highland Reel.

The six-year-old has competed in just about every major racing jurisdiction in the world, and has registered wins on three different continents, one of only a handful of horses to do so.

You can look to the Breeders’ Cup Turf victory or the Coronation Cup as its crowning achievement, but winning the Hong Kong Vase for a second time in its racing swansong has to sit somewhere towards the top of the tree.

Not only did the horse win the race for the second time – one of only three gallopers to do so – but Highland Reel had to withstand a huge challenge from fellow UK invader Talismanic to get the Vase.

This horse knew how to fight, and that rare mix of fortitude and class is what set Highland Reel apart.

Comparing champions is unfair

There’s an old adage that rings true with the sport of kings. It dictates “champions shouldn’t be compared, just admired”.

Is it fair to compare Win’x career to Highland Reel’s? No, it is not. Just like when the English want to stack up the achievements of Frankel and Black Caviar. Both horses left the competitive arena as undefeated champions, comparisons do both horses a great disservice.

Highland Reel retires as Europe’s highest-ever earner, a seven-time group 1 winner and a unquestionable star of the track.

Enough of the comparisons Aussies – Highland Reel is an all-time great, and it’s time to accept it.

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