Satono Crown defeats Highland Reel in the Hong Kong Vase.
In a finish that came down to the very last jump of the 2400 meter (about 1 1/2 mile) race, Japan’s Satono Crown denied the heavily-favored Highland Reel a second win in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase. Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Highland Reel and jockey Ryan Moore took the lead at the start and drew off at the head of the lane, but Joao “Magic Man” Moreira was just able to run him down with Satono Crown, beating the Irish champion a half-length at odds of 19-to-1. It was the fastest renewal of the race in its 16 years as a Grade 1 event, with a final time of 2:22.62 over good turf at Sha Tin Racecourse.
“I thought I had a big chance before the race, and it worked out,” said winning jockey Moreira, who has now won at least one of each of the four Hong Kong International races. “I tracked Silverwave early and got a clear run through. I had a lot of horse under me at the head of the stretch, and was always confident that I could get to the leader.”
In front of a record-breaking crowd of 100,710, Highland Reel jumped from the gates like a shot, immediately placing himself in his favored front-running position. Moore allowed him to use just a bit of his speed to get over along the rail, and then settled in for the long, right-handed gallop around the backstretch. Setting fractions of :25.29, :49.77 and 1:14.32, Highland Reel was unhurried for the first six furlongs of the contest. Satono Crown, meanwhile, was back in tenth, covered up by a sea of horses near the rear of the field.
Nearing what would equate to the five-eighths pole, Highland Reel was unexpectedly challenged for his lead by Big Orange, pressing him to quicken his pace before the optimal point in the race. While Big Orange quickly dropped back, Moore struggled for several strides to settle Highland Reel into his galloping pace once again.
Nonetheless, Highland Reel had a 2 1/2-length lead turning for home, and he appeared to be an easy winner. Satono Crown and Moreira had different ideas, as the horse found clear running and made a sweeping bid toward the leader.
“I got behind a horse that was dragging me back instead of taking me forward, so I had to wait a little bit, get on the fence and track the French horse ridden by Maxime Guyon (Silverwave),” Moreira explained. “Once I was able to get him on the outside and get a clear run, I could feel that he was full of himself and was going to dash home.”
According to the race chart, Satono Crown ran the final three quarters of the race in under 24 seconds each, clocking splits of 23.83, 23.70, and in the final quarter, 23.45 seconds. Highland Reel shortened his stride badly in the final 100 meters, and Satono Crown was just able to nail him on the wire, winning by a half-length. Highland Reel would have to settle for second after a fantastic 2016 campaign.
“He has run a very good race but it’s disappointed to get beaten,” said Moore. “We pulled a long way clear and the winner is a good horse.”
Behind Highland Reel, it was another 7 1/4 lengths back to One Foot in Heaven, third, with the filly Nuovo Record checking in fourth after a wide trip throughout.
Satono Crown’s win is Japan’s second in the Vase, coming 15 years after Stay Gold’s win. His trainer Noriyuki Hori was also winning his second HKIR event, having won the Mile with Maurice the year before. He would go on to win the HK Cup later on Sunday’s card for his third HKIR win.
“We had been considering this race and after his performance in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) we decided to make this a priority,” Hori said, “We’re happy that the horse has been able to come through and perform at his best.”
Bred in Japan by Northern Farm, Satono Crown is by Irish-bred stallion Marju, and out of the Irish-bred mare Jioconda, by Rossini. He was sold as a yearling at the JRA Sale of Yearlings and Weanlings, bringing $ 573,040 from owner Hajime Satomi. Now, the 4-year-old colt’s record stands at five wins from 11 starts.
Watch the race replay here:
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