Heffernan hails 'iron horse' Highland Reel ahead of likely swansong in Vase
Seamie Heffernan on Wednesday issued a positive update on Aidan O'Brien's five-strong Sha Tin squad, which includes Europe's highest-earning horse Highland Reel, who is likely to have his final race in the Longines Hong Kong Vase on Sunday.
In addition to Highland Reel, O'Brien will also be represented at Sunday's meeting by Lancaster Bomber and Roly Poly in the Hong Kong Mile, while Deauville and War Decree are set for the Hong Kong Cup.
Heffernan, who exercised Lancaster Bomber, said: "They were only just ticking over but we were happy with the five of them. They've all travelled well and are fresh."
Paying tribute to Highland Reel, on whom he has won two Grade 1s, including a memorable success in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Turf, Heffernan said: "He's an iron horse. It's great to be around him. He's so uncomplicated, genuine and has a great will to win."
Highland Reel became Europe's all-time leading money earner when finishing a gallant third in the Breeders' Cup Turf last month, claiming the honour from Cirrus Des Aigles, who was expertly handled through his career by Corine Barande-Barbe.
Barande-Barbe will be represented in the Hong Kong Cup by Garlingari, who descends from a family she knows very well.
Barande-Barbe, who also owns and bred Garlingari, said: "He's related to Carling; she won the French Oaks in 1995 and I kept the family through the years.
"It makes it more special when you breed the horse. I have a lot of affection for all my horses but especially when I have bred them and they have a story."
Last year Garlingari finished seventh in the Hong Kong Vase, run over a mile and a half, but the trainer is hopeful the drop back to a mile and a quarter in the Hong Kong Cup will be to the six-year-old's advantage, as will an extra year and a lighter campaign.
She said: "He's one year older and horses are not adults as soon as people believe. We think he's more mature and has had an easier year. Last year he was maybe on the way down, but now he's on his way to the top – and the top is on Sunday!"
Ready for the road
Britain's champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa will be sitting out the Hong Kong Cup, Mile and Vase but has picked up a ride in the Sprint on US raider Stormy Liberal.
Stormy Liberal was the shock 40-1 winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar last month and is expected to once again start an outsider. However, De Sousa was pleased with the horse during a spin on Wednesday.
He said: "I galloped him this morning, just letting him stretch his legs. He felt quite good and I was pleased. He's a happy horse."
De Sousa finished more than 40 winners clear of his nearest pursuer in the 2017 jockeys' title and warned he will not be taking it easy next season.
"I've just bought a new car so need to put some mileage on it!" he added.
Look back on the best Flat action of the year in the new edition of the Racing Post Annual. Order now at racingpost.com/shop or call 01933 304858