Horses To Follow » Highland Glen

Highland Glen

There were only five runners in the 12-furlong handicap at Kempton on Monday, and it was only a Class 3 contest, but there are reasons for believing that this was a hot race for the grade, and Highland Glen put in a commendable performance to win it. The fact that he dwelt a little in the stalls and was slowly away – fifth of the five runners out of the gate and two lengths behind the fourth horse after they had gone 50 yards – wouldn’t have been a huge inconvenience if Ryan Moore hadn’t been intent on making it, but he was, so even though the early pace wasn’t that fast, the son of Montjeu had to do a fair bit of running up the home straight first time to get to the front and lead them around the bottom bend. From there, Moore seemed intent on making it a test of stamina. He led them at a fair pace down the far side, stretched his rivals around the home turn and was the only horse still on the bridle, still travelling well at the head of the field, around the home turn. Ottoman Empire began to stay on under pressure on the far side and Tinaar began to pick up from the rear on the near side as Highland Glen came under pressure in the centre. It is difficult to tell from the camera angle at Kempton, but it never looked like Ottoman Empire headed him, although he did get close. Highland Glen was always holding him, however, and he kept on well all the way to the line to post an impressive win.

This was probably a strong race. Both the second and the third had won both their previous races, both were progressive, both were proven over the course and the distance, and the time of the race was really good, 0.15secs/furlong faster than standard and more than five seconds faster than the only other race run over the same distance on the day. Highland Glen can go on from this now. An impressive winner of his maiden at Lingfield in May and bogged down in heavy ground at Haydock on his subsequent start, he was noted staying on well when it was all too late in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot, a race that his trainer Sir Michael Stoute had won three times in the previous eight years. He hadn’t run since then, but he had gone down to the start for the 12-furlong heritage handicap that Classic Vintage won at Glorious Goodwood, only for him to refuse to go into the stalls. He was obviously a tricky customer, so the decision was taken after that to geld him, and he looked very straightforward on Monday on his first run since.

The handicapper is certain to raise him now from the mark of 89 off which he raced on Monday, but he can’t be too harsh, given that he seemed to be all out to win by a length and a head. This was his first run in 95 days, however, his first since being gelded and just the fifth of his life, so it he should improve significantly for it. He probably does need good or fast ground or Polytrack to be seen at his best but, if he encounters it again now over a mile and a half or even a mile and six furlongs between now and the end of the season, he should be worth following. He is also an exciting horse for next year.

21st September 2009