Highfield Princess reigns supreme in King George Qatar Stakes

Horse Racing | Press Article 17/04/24

Top-class sprinter Highfield Princess opened her account for the season in style by blitzing her way to victory in the G2 King George Qatar Stakes.

Sent off the 4/9 favourite, the three-time G1 winner had the five-furlong contest under control from a long way out as she travelled powerfully under Jason Hart.

Once asked, John Quinn’s stable star quickened away to score by three lengths and now looks primed to defend her G1 Nunthorpe Stakes crown at York later this month.

Last year’s G1 Prix de l’Abbaye runner-up White Lavender (28/1) finished second, while Raasel (22/1) stayed on from off the pace to take third.

The success takes Highland Princess through the £1.5 million prize money barrier and provides both her trainer and jockey with a third winner of this year’s Qatar Goodwood Festival.

Quinn said: “Highfield Princess ran really well in the Duke Of York and maybe got a bit tired. At Royal Ascot, she was beaten just a length in the King's Stand and then four days later in the Jubilee, she ran another fantastic race.

“We decided to give her a break, which we did last summer, and we were pleased with her at home. She is a six-year-old mare and fair dues to her, she has bounced back well.

"She is a top-class filly and we are delighted to have her. She was a backward filly at two but very likeable. All she has done is improve for racing and gone from being a top-class handicapper to being the best sprinting filly in Europe, if not the world.

"I was very keen for her to get her head in front for herself and today will have done her a lot of good. Group Two races are so hard to win as well, but she had run her two years ago in the Oak Tree Stakes and handled the track lovely, so we thought we'd handle the track. We thought maybe, just maybe, this might be easier than, for instance, the Maurice de Gheest which we decided to miss.

"Last year she won the seven-furlong all-weather final at Newcastle. Then we ran her in the Duke Of York and she won that well, then we ran her in the Prix Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs – it was a very hot race with horses like Minzaal – and she danced up.

"We had her in the Nunthorpe, and she came back from France and we were really pleased with her. And I said to John [Fairley – owner] that this filly has got a lot of speed and they go very quick in the Nunthorpe, and we saw what she did.

"The plan is to go back for the Nunthorpe in our back yard. She really loves The Curragh – the Nunthorpe and then back to Ireland and we will see after that.

"I had thought about going to Australia but I am a little bit cooler on that now. Travel, different seasons into different seasons, a lot of people have tried it so I thought we will stay in Europe and then possibly the Breeders' Cup. She is a very good filly to travel, the lads always say you wouldn't know she was in the horse box, which is very good.”

On the form of the yard, he said: "I was struggling a bit. We had a period or three weeks when I did not run much as we weren't really happy with them. I was really pleased with these horses coming here and to see how Lord Riddiford ran on Tuesday – if you come to a big meeting and the first fella gets wiped out then it can be a long week!

“If you are lucky enough, every racehorse trainer, owner, yard deserves a top class racehorse – you don't always get them. I am not an old man but have been training a long time, so need a good horse!"

Hart said: “Highfield Princess was her usual self. She jumped well, travelled great, and was much the best. The Czech [horse, Ponntos] gave me a lead and I was kind of hoping he would give me a lead a bit further. I had to commit a furlong and a half down and, on that dead ground, I thought it might blunt her turn of foot, but she has won well.

"I was keen to give her a race without really getting stuck in. I don't know what the boss has said but I presume she has some nice targets later on in the year. It was nice to get a win next to her name.

"She absolutely ran her heart out in those two races at Royal Ascot and it was nice to see her bounce back and get her head back in front and win by a bit of distance. She has always improved throughout the years and has got better with her racing.

“I have not been into John's as much lately as I have been down the country, but I rode her out two weekends ago and I was doing her girth and she tried to bite me! I thought then, ‘You've got your sass back!’

"I knew she was bouncing coming into this. She got her very own way about things. She has got a character about her, and I am very grateful to be associated with her.

"For my career, I was never a Group 1 winner until her, and for her to come along last year and win three Group 1s, it took my career to a new level."

Of being the week's leading rider, he added: "It would be nice, but we have got the main winner we came down for so I am happy with that."

Clifford Lee said of White Lavender: “I am delighted with the run. She travelled really well throughout the race. She picked up nicely going for the two-furlong pole and we were beaten by a very good horse.”

Asked whether the plan is to go for the Prix de l'Abbaye again, he said: “She was second in it last year giving a lot of weight away. She would definitely go close in that sort of race. She’s very consistent and she tries very hard.”

Raasel’s trainer Mick Appleby said: “He has run a blinder. I think in a way we probably wish we didn’t run on Tuesday, but we still wouldn’t have beaten the winner – we might have got second, possibly. He has shown that he has still got it. The draw made a big difference – he was drawn in the middle and needs loads of cover. The other day he was drawn on the wing and he just does too much when he’s got daylight.

“I am not sure yet where we are going to go next. We will probably give him a bit of a break now, freshen him up – obviously he’s had a hard week this week. We will give him a few weeks and then look to see where we go from there.”

3.35pm King George Qatar Stakes (Group 2)
1 Highfield Princess (Trainers House Enterprises Ltd) John Quinn 6-9-01 Jason Hart 4/9F
2 White Lavender (Barbara Keller) Karl Burke 5-9-01 Clifford Lee 28/1
3 Raasel (The Horse Watchers) Mick Appleby 6-9-04 James Doyle 22/1
11 ran

John Quinn – 12th Qatar Goodwood Festival winner
Jason Hart – 9th Qatar Goodwood Festival winner