It’s 37 years since a 21-year-old John Quinn left this country to seek brighter opportunities in Yorkshire, first as a jockey before subsequently finding his true calling as a trainer.
Nearly four decades later, Quinn has sent out over 1200 winners and now every time he comes home, he inevitably comes back with a horse to run in some of our best and more lucrative races.
On Sunday, the Tipperary native came back with the best horse he has ever come back with. In fact, she is probably the best horse he has ever had, period.
Highfield Princess is the gift that keeps on giving. Bought in utero by Quinn’s landlord John Fairley, her dam cost just £18,000.
She missed her entire juvenile campaign and got beaten on her first four runs, including a lowly handicap at Doncaster.
However, since then she has progressed impeccably, prompting a triple figure rating by the end of her four-year-old season last term.
The vast majority would have pulled stumps and retired her to stud, but Quinn and Fairley have kept her going and been rewarded in spades.
On Sunday at the Curragh, she made it three Group 1 wins in as many countries with a scintillating performance in the Flying Five Stakes.
“She is just a phenomenal mare,” Quinn said after the race. “I think maybe not racing her at two probably helped her and the rest is down to my wonderful staff and the mare herself.
It’s great to come back here to Ireland and win a Group 1.”
“In the spring I said to my son Seán that if she improves I’d love to see her go around Keeneland and as long as she’s ok after this she will head next for the Breeders Cup Sprint.”
Highfield Princess is easily worth several million euro but Fairley has already turned down numerous offers and has vowed to keep her for breeding himself. She is comfortably the best sprinter in Europe and at the Breeders’ Cup she could well announce herself on the world stage.
She was the standout story on Irish Champions Weekend and real life evidence that the smaller owner and trainer can compete on one of the biggest stages of world racing.