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Highland Reel has set himself up for the defence of his Breeders’ Cup Turf crown with a meritorious run in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained globetrotter finished third to Cracksman on unsuitably soft ground on Saturday but conditions are expected to be far more in his favour at Del Mar on November 4.

O’Brien was satisfied with the run, particularly as Highland Reel covered more ground than his rivals as jockey Ryan Moore looked for better ground.

“We were delighted with his run. He has been off a long time and he is not a soft ground horse, but we were over the moon with his run,” O’Brien said.

Highland Reel, who finished third in the 2015 Cox Plate behind Winx and Criterion, has won races in Hong Kong, England and the United States.

O’Brien, who equalled Bobby Frankel’s world record 25 Group One wins in a calendar year with Hydrangea at Saturday’s Champions meeting, will have a strong Breeders’ Cup team.

“I’m not sure about Hydrangea, but Rhododendron will go for the fillies’ race and Roly Poly will either go for that or the Mile,” O’Brien said.

“We will see how Churchill is in the next few days and the lads will make a decision on what they want to do with him. It will be the same with Caravaggio. He could go up in trip, but I don’t think he needs to.

“September was second in the Fillies’ Mile and could go (to Del Mar), and Happily didn’t run at Newmarket so we will see how she is and she could go there.

“US Navy Flag is a possible, as are the other horses that ran in the Dewhurst.

“Declarationofpeace is going for a five-furlong race out there on grass. War Decree could go for the Classic or the Mile.”

 
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