Sunday saw a successful cross-channel raid on the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, France, as British-based horses completed a trifecta in the sprint race.
Highfield Princess, trained in England by Irish-born handler John Quinn, was a three-quarter of a length winner of the six-and-a-half furlong contest, as the visitors dominated the closing stages of the race for three-year-olds and upwards.
The five-year-old winning mare, a daughter of Night Of Thunder, who stands at Kildangan Stud in Ireland, was ridden by Jason Hart, who claimed the first success of his career at the highest level.
Winning rider Jason Hart gave his reaction to Sky Sports Racing, stating:
“The boss (John Quinn) and Seán (the trainer’s son) always had this race mapped out for her. After Ascot he gave her a small break and trained her for this race. When the boss targets a race, he usually never disappoints – so it’s good.
“We didn’t go very quick (sic), which I think helped us, so we were in the right place to attack when we wanted to. She was a game winner in the end and was well on top at the finish.”
Commenting on his maiden Group 1 success, and the first also for the mare, Hart said:
“Obviously these are the race that everyone wants to be riding in. It’s nice to come here and get a good one. She has won over seven (furlongs), six, and now six-and-a-half – she’s just very versatile. I was a small bit worried about the ground today but she’s proved me wrong on that front.”
The Owen Burrows-trained four-year-old colt Minzaal, with Jim Crowley in the saddle, had a neck to spare over the third-placed six-year-old gelding Garrus, handled by Charlie Hills and ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal.
Highfield Princess, who broke her maiden off a mark of 58 at Ayr, Scotland, just under two years ago, put in a brave front-running performance at Deauville under 27-year-old Hart. Going forward when breaking from the gates, the mare held off challenges from all angles inside the two-furlong pole, as she fought bravely to the wire in the French summer sunshine.
Bred by her owner John Fairley, Highfield Princess was sixth in the Group 1 Platinum Jubilee at Royal Ascot, England, on her last start, and had previously won the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes earlier in the season. Highfield Princess is a third Group 1 success for her sire Night Of Thunder and is a half-sister to Group 2 winner.
Fairley owns the yard where John Quinn trains which made the victory even more special. A delighted Fairley told Sky Sports Racing:
“She’s been tremendous; she’s got better and better and better. When other horses come to her, she pulls out more, and that’s what she’s done time and again. I see her everyday and pat her one the nose as she lives 10 minutes down from my home, in my stables. She’s called Highfield Princess because we live in Highfield.”
Discussing future plans for the mare, Fairley stated:
“We’ve entered her in Ireland in the Flying Five at The Curragh and of course you dream of going to the Breeders’ Cup. It’s Keeneland this year and there are two fillies’ races at the Breeders’ Cup, so I may have to get on an aeroplane rather than the ferry!”