The doubts around Highfield Princess' Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) bid had been whirring around John Quinn's head right up until the off. During the race, they vanished in a matter of seconds.
The remarkable mare had only landed her first group 1 in France in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville two Sundays ago. Just 12 days later, and much closer to home being 30 miles from Quinn's Malton yard, she doubled her top-level tally in stunning style Aug. 19 at York Racecourse.
She reigns! 👑— Breeders' Cup (@BreedersCup) August 19, 2022
Highfield Princess captures the #WinAndYoureIn Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes and punches their ticket to the #BreedersCup!
Congrats to all of the connections!pic.twitter.com/7rxIcfRBJA
Backed into 5-1 before the off following early support on Friday morning, she reeled in long-time leader, the juvenile filly The Platinum Queen, at the furlong pole and scorched clear to win by two and a half lengths, while last year's second Emaraaty Ana hit the frame once again in third.
Less than two years ago, Highfield Princess won her first race, a class 6 seven-furlong handicap at Ayr, off a lowly mark of :58. Now a whopping 54lb higher, she crowned herself the queen of sprinting not only in the north, nor Britain, but of Europe too at her local track she adores the most.
It took just over :57 seconds for Quinn and owner John Fairley's star mare to breeze to Nunthorpe success. The days in the lead-up were anything but for the trainer, whose decision between head and heart tore him up until pressing the declaration button on Wednesday morning.
She has earned her place in the connections' hearts forever, much to the joy of Quinn, who was left biting his race program in disbelief afterwards about what she had just done.
"Wow. What a mare. She's unbelievable," he said. "I wasn't sold on coming here, but she'd taken it so well. Like every trainer and all the great staff in yards, you keep looking, looking, and looking again and hope that she can tell you she's ready. She's got some constitution, hasn't she? It's fantastic.
"Apart from my family, she means everything to me and that isn't me trying to be smart, she is literally everything. I love her. You dream about that, you dream about her.
"She had to step up again to do this even from what she achieved at Deauville. It's phenomenal what she's done."
The 5-year-old's win was a second group 1 success in equally rapid succession for jockey Jason Hart. Their unthinkable journey together had also given them Royal Ascot glory last year, as well as victory in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes (G2) on the Knavesmire earlier this season.
He had finally notched that elusive British top-level winner, and while Hart may be Scottish born, he admitted he is now an adopted Yorkshireman, which made his success even more special.
"It was good to get that first group 1 of my career in France, but on home soil it means so much more," he said. "John trains in Yorkshire, the owner is from Yorkshire, and I've been based here for a long time. It's so brilliant to win it for the county, not just for me.
"To start off a mark of :57 before she even won her first race, to then absolutely hack up in the Nunthorpe is what dreams are made of. It's really emotional because it's what you strive to do from the first moment you sit in the saddle.
"It's a huge lift. The end-of-season target has always been to go to the Breeders' Cup, and I can't wait to be on her out there now."
A return to France to ParisLongchamp on Arc weekend is the next stop on this mare's remarkable venture, which will culminate this season at Keeneland in early November in either the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T) or even the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) on the dirt.
Highfield Princess' win in the Nunthorpe guaranteed her a starting slot the 5 1/2-furlong $1 million Turf Sprint as the race is part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" series.
Quinn, Hart, and Fairley—a former supremo of Channel 4 Racing—were keen to bask in and relish the raucous celebrations at their local track, and the one their darling Highfield Princess has made her own.
"Here at York she loves the place. It's fantastic to have a horse like this. I said to Mr. Fairley she won't win a maiden, so let's get her categorized and I thought she wouldn't be able to make it in class 5 company, but there we are!" Quinn said.
"She's progressed year in, year out and is a joy to train. The endgame was always going to be the Breeders' Cup as she has loads of tactical speed. Five and a half furlongs around two bends is right up her alley.
"We were working back from that and we wanted to win a 'Win and You're In' contest which today is. She's definitely paid for the journey now. I'll run her once more before then on Arc day in either the Prix de l'Abbaye (G1) or the Prix de la Foret (G1)—it will probably be in the Abbaye.
"This means everything to me, especially as all my family are here. Mr. Fairley told me he has never had a horse like this and I agree. She's unbelievable."