Highfield Princess belatedly opened her account for the campaign with a runaway victory in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood.
John Quinn’s superstar mare won three times at Group One level last term, landing the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, the Nunthorpe at York and the Flying Five at the Curragh.
She had to make do with minor honours in her first three outings of this season, but having placed in both the King’s Stand and the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June she was the 4-9 favourite to get back on the winning trail.
Those who took the cramped odds about the six-year-old will have had few concerns for the duration of the five-furlong contest, with Highfield Princess initially taking a lead Czech raider Ponntos before bursting to the lead.
White Lavender came from out of the pack and just briefly threatened to make a race of it, but Highfield Princess found another gear in the last half-furlong under her regular partner Jason Hart and had three lengths in hand at the line.
Hart said: “She was her usual self, jumped well, travelled great and was much the best.
“The Czech horse 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.
“It’s nice to get a win next to her name. She ran her heart out in those two races at Royal Ascot for her to bounce back and get her head back in front and win by a bit of distance, it was nice to see.
“I am very grateful to be associated with her. For my career, I was never a Group One winner until her, and for her to come along last year and win three Group Ones, it took my career to a new level.”
Paddy Power make Highfield Princess their 2-1 favourite from 11-4 for the Nunthorpe on August 25 and Quinn is looking forward to seeing her defend her crown.
“She’s run another fantastic race. We decided we’d give her a break, which we did last year and we were pleased with her at home,” said the Malton-based trainer.
“She’s a top-class filly and we’re delighted to have her. As a two-year-old she was a backward filly but very likeable, she’s improved for racing and went from being a top-class handicapper into being probably the best sprinting filly in Europe, if not the world, last year.
“I was very keen for her to get her head in front, for herself. Today would have done her a lot of good.
“The plan is to go back for the Coolmore Nunthorpe, in our back yard. She really likes the Curragh, we’ll take it race by race, but the Nunthorpe is next and hopefully on to Ireland for the Flying Five. We’ll see after that.”