Highland Reel: highlights of an extraordinary career
"He could be anything, and everything is an option," said Aidan O'Brien after Highland Reel followed up a 12-length maiden romp by gaining the first of nine Group or Graded wins in Goodwood's Vintage Stakes.
Well, Highland Reel might not have achieved quite everything, but few thoroughbreds have travelled more or accomplished more, and none trained in Europe has earned more.
The finale at Sha Tin encapsulated much of what has made him such a huge favourite, as he travelled strongly, dug deep when challenged, and was ultimately much too good for an international field headed by a Breeders' Cup winner.
That second win in one of the world's richest middle-distance races has to be right up there among his career highlights, but what about the others?
A front-running five-and-a-quarter-length win from Closing Bell in Arlington's Secretariat Stakes on his fifth start at three made for an impressive top-level breakthrough and it earned him a trip to Australia to meet Winx in the Cox Plate.
He was only third there, yet bounced back at the end of a demading season to confirm himself an international contender of the highest order by beating hot favourite Flintshire well in the Vase at Sha Tin.
Four-year-old highlights were topped by a King George win from Wings Of Desire that at the time was widely attributed to a clever front-running ride from Ryan Moore, and a brilliant defeat of old rival Flintshire in the Breeders' Cup Turf, but his Arc second to stable-companion Found was another great effort and a career best on Racing Post Ratings.
A disappointing return at Meydan was easily explained by the unsuitably soft going, and back on the sounder surface he prefers he took the Coronation Cup from Frontiersman before showing his versatility by dropping back 2f to beat three-time Group 1 winner Decorated Knight in Royal Ascot's Prince of Wales's Stakes.
Beaten afterwards in races won by Enable, Cracksman and Talismanic it's a tribute to his constitution and the expertise of the team that look after him that he should end a long season on the other side of the world as fresh as paint and primed for a career-defining swansong.
What a horse.
HIGHLAND REEL IN NUMBERS
7,513,355 racecourse earnings in sterling
17,500 stud fee in euros
124 highest Racing Post Rating
27 racecourse starts
10 career wins
7 top-level wins
4 seasons raced
3 jockeys who won on him
0 European-trained horses who have earned more