Agony for Highland Reel team as Satono Crown swoops late
From the moment Ryan Moore bagged the lead and the rail going into turn one, Highland Reel looked like becoming only the third horse to register back-to-back wins in the Vase.
When he surged three lengths clear turning into the straight his rivals appeared dead and buried. By the time Satono Crown took second with a furlong and a half to run, Highland Reel looked to have slipped the field, as he had under Seamie Heffernan in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
However, Joao Moreira was always confident and the man many feel is most entitled to challenge Moore for world's best jockey status set about reeling him in.
At the furlong marker he had made little inroad into the lead. But then a long hard season began to catch up with Highland Reel. With half a furlong to go the gap was down to a length and a half. With 50 metres to go Satono Crown was within a length, and with three strides to the line he took the lead.
Highland Reel was nothing if not a gallant runner-up and Moore said: "He ran a cracker and we've pulled a long way clear. The winner's a very good horse. It was a good run at the end of a long year."
They were sentiments echoed by the four-year-old's trainer Aidan O'Brien, who said: "He ran his heart out. He's had a long hard season and to come here and run a big race again, I'm delighted with him.
"We're really going to look forward to next season with him, that's the plan. He can run in all those top races. He's a very progressive horse really. He's a Group-winning two-year-old and he's carried on every year, and we still think he's going the right way."
There could be an argument Satono Crown was value for more than the half-length he won by. Whereas Moore got a soft lead, set his own fractions and kicked clear of the field off the bend, nothing went right for the winner.
He was trapped behind horses as Highland Reel kicked for home and then Moreira had to wait for a gap as Moore shot clear. When he did get out the response was not instant. But slowly, gradually, heartbreakingly for fans and backers of O'Brien's brave beast, he did get there.
"When I got out I knew I had a lot of horse left underneath me," said Moreira, who completed a treble on the undercard. "I was always confident I'd get there. I was behind a horse who was taking me back rather than into the race, so I switched to follow Maxime Guyon. Once I got on the outside and had a clear run I could tell he was full of himself and he was going to bash down.
"The way he won today showed he has a lot of talent. He beat a world-class horse in Highland Reel, and to be his rider today is a blessing. I think he'd have won with any other rider on top."
The Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained One Foot In Heaven looked an unlikely runner for most of the week but he got the green light the day before the race and fared best of the rest in third, six and three-quarter lengths adrift of Highland Reel.
The Michael Bell-trained Big Orange finished out of the money in 11th of the 14 runners.
Bell said: "It was the end of a long season and one race too many. He had a tough time in Melbourne. We'll freshen him up for the staying race in Dubai and he'll have a very similar campaign."
Europe's leading prize-money earners (£)
Cirrus Des Aigles 6,179,490
Gloria De Campeao 5,898,547
Highland Reel 5,283,545
Red Cadeaux 4,998,408
St Nicholas Abbey 4,954,590
(money earned worldwide while trained in Europe)