A journey which began in defeat at Redcar in June 2020 could reach a glorious conclusion in Lexington, Kentucky on 5 November after Highfield Princess recorded her second Group One in the space of 12 days in the Nunthorpe Stakes here on Friday.
John Quinn’s mare had spent most of her 29-race career competing at six and seven furlongs and opened her account at the highest level over six-and-a-half, in the Prix Maurice du Gheest at Deauville on 7 August.
That was remarkable enough for a mare who was beaten off a rating of 57 in her first handicap two summers ago, but Highfield Princess took her form to a new level again here, coping admirably with the fierce early pace in a five-furlong test of pure speed before powering past The Platinum Queen, the second-favourite, at the furlong pole.
She was two-and-a-half lengths in front of The Platinum Queen at the line, adding a further £302,000 to her career winnings and, perhaps as significantly, guaranteeing herself a place in the field for the $1m Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in Kentucky in early November.
“She didn’t run at two and it took her quite a while to learn her trade,” Quinn said. “From France [last time], she’s been absolutely fine, eating really well and bright as a button. I wasn’t afraid to run her and she’s a phenomenal mare. That’s a win-and-you’re-in for the Breeders’ Cup and that’s the plan. She’s also in the Foret and the Abbaye [at Longchamp in early October] so all being well, it’s two more runs. She’s versatile and five-and-a-half around two turns [at Keeneland] should suit her.”
The Group Two Lonsdale Cup lost its most recognisable stars in the hours before the off as Stradivarius and then Trueshan, both Group One-winning stayers, were ruled out due to a minor injury and the quick ground respectively. In their absence, though, Quickthorn produced a memorable front-running display to beat his five remaining opponents by a wide margin, having been sent into a clear lead from the off by Tom Marquand.
Tearaway leaders generally come back to their field in the home straight but it was clear from a long way out that Quickthorn still had plenty of running left. By the time Marquand’s rivals realised it too, the race was effectively over.
“When racehorses go off like that in front, they’re dying three furlongs out,” Hughie Morrison, Quickthorn’s trainer, said, “and in this case he obviously didn’t, he had won the race four out.
“I’m disappointed the other two didn’t turn up. He’s an improving five-year-old, he’s probably improved a stone this year [and] he’d have certainly given them a race today, wouldn’t he?” Noble Style was cut from 16-1 to 7-1 second-favourite for next year’s 2,000 Guineas by Paddy Power after making plenty of ground from off the pace to cut down Marshman, the favourite, in the closing stages of the Group Two Gimcrack Stakes.
“I see no reason why he won’t stay a mile [in the Guineas],” Charlie Appleby, the winner’s trainer, said. “His pedigree suggests he’ll get it for sure and he does it all very nicely.”
Saturday’s TV tips
With a £300,000 first prize, the Ebor Handicap at York on Saturday is worth more to the winner than several of the season’s Group One events and the huge pot of cash on offer has also made it a big target for Irish stables in recent seasons.
Irish-trained horses have won four of the last eight runnings of the Ebor despite accounting for just 14% of the starters, and three of the top five in the betting – Earl Of Tyrone, Okita Soushi and Licence – appear to have been trained with Saturday’s race in mind for many months.
Among the home-trained contingent, meanwhile, a first Ebor success would be a huge boost to William Haggas’s challenge for the Flat trainers’ championship, and his two runners, Candleford and Gaassee, go to post with obvious chances on their handicap form this year.
Both have jumped significantly in the weights as a result of earlier wins, however, whereas Joseph O’Brien’s Okita Soushi (3.35) has been running eye-catching races with significantly less effect on his handicap mark.
His amateur rider gave him too much to do at Leopardstown last month and the form of his earlier two-length third at Royal Ascot, off a 2lb lower mark than here, was franked when the winner won again next time. His hold-up style is ideally suited to Saturday’s race, top apprentice Mikey Sheehy takes off 3lb and he is the clear pick of the prices at around 8-1.
Newton Abbot: 1.07 Pop The Champagne, 1.42 Lock’s Corner, 2.17 Hooper, 2.52 Romanor, 3.27 Faint Hope, 4.02 Byzantine Empire, 4.35 Al Zaraqaan.
York: 1.50 Cadillac, 2.25 Caius Chorister (nb), 3.00 Rohaan, 3.35 Okita Soushi (nap), 4.10 Summerghand, 4.45 Treasure Trove, 5.20 Phantom Flight.
Chester: 1.55 Frankness, 2.30 All The Time, 3.05 Loft, 3.40 Trumble, 4.15 Sampers Seven, 4.50 So Smart, 5.25 The New Marwan.
Sandown: 2.05 Nizaaka, 2.40 Defence Of Fort, 3.15 Global Esteem, 3.50 Migdam, 4.25 Cruise, 5.00 Urban Sprawl, 5.35 Impeach.
Lingfield: 4.40 Firenze Rosa, 5.15 Eurythmical, 5.50 Paddy Brunty, 6.20 Crown Bridges, 6.50 Raise The Roof, 7.20 Miss Sligo, 7.50 Stormbreaker.
Chelmsford: 4.51 Street Poet, 5.26 Rock Girl, 6.00 Royal Mariner, 6.35 Nanga Parbat, 7.05 Miss Bella Brand, 7.35 Maylah.
York 1.50: A slight drop back in trip could help Cadillac to regain the winning thread in his third start after a big-money move to up-and-coming trainer Kevin Philippart de Foy.
Sandown 2.05: Nizaaka has made swift progress through the handicap ranks this summer and looks ready for this step up to Group Three company.
York 2.25: The progressive Caius Chorister had more in hand than the margin might suggest last time and could well improve for this step up in trip.
Sandown 2.40: Defence Of Fort, a convincing winner on debut, could be the pick of a very promising field of two-year-olds.
York 3.00: He is most familiar as a top sprint-handicapper but Rohaan has winning form at seven furlongs and was not beaten far at Group One level last time, so odds around 6-1 look too big.
York 4.10: Summerghand ran well from a bad draw at Ripon last time and sets off from a much better pitch here.