International Group 1 winner Highland Reel is a good chance to take on Winx again in the 2016 Group 1 $3m Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 22.
Champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien hasn’t ruled out another trip down under with Highland Reel after the four year old finished second to the Roger Varian trained Postponed in the Group 1 £960,000 Juddmonte International Stakes (1 mile, 2 furlongs, 88 yards) at York on Wednesday.
Highland Reel raced on the pace in the 2015 Cox Plate before finishing five and a half lengths third behind Winx and O’Brien is keen to have another attempt at winning his second trophy in the Australia’s most famous weight for age race.
O’Brien was in the winner’s stall after the running of the 2014 Cox Plate after Ryan Moore brought Adelaide from near the tail of the pack to swoop around the field to beat Fawkner and Silent Achiever.
“I’d say he’ll travel plenty, he loves it,” O’Brien said.
“He’s still progressing this horse, he’s getting physically stronger all the time. He always give one hundred per cent, he’s very versatile.”
“He handles soft as well but faster ground is probably best.”
Highland Reel put up an outstanding front running display when he won the Group 1 US$450,000 Secretariat Stakes (1 mile 2 furlongs) at Arlington Park, USA prior to his Cox Plate run.
Then after the Cox Plate the Galileo stallion travelled to Hong Kong to win the Group 1 HK$16.5m Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m) at Sha Tin.
Highland Reel was quick to regain his form at Royal Ascot this year and after running second to Dartmouth in the Group 2 £225,000 Hardwicke Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) on June 18, stepped out a month later to win the Group 1 £1.215m King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs).
Highland Reel is also nominated for the Group 1 $3m BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 15 but O’Brien is yet to finalise his travel plans.
“He’s entered in Australia, he’s in all the races down there,” O’Brien said.
“He’s got a lot of options and if he runs down in Australia he would have to run somewhere before that, possibly something like the Irish Champion Stakes, but there’s also a race in America, the Sword Dancer (Saratoga), he could run in. He could do the quarantine at home in Ireland.”
Winx has been posted as the $2.70 favourite at Ladbrokes.com.au to win back to back Cox Plates while Highland Reel shares the second line of betting at $15 with Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Lucia Valentina.