Highfield Princess bounced back to her very best to claim the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines with a thrilling late thrust at ParisLongchamp.
John Quinn’s star mare was a regular on the scoresheet at the highest level last season, but although running with real credit throughout the current campaign, she had just the one victory to her name in 2023 as she headed to the French capital.
Having to overcome both a disappointing showing at the Curragh last time and a tricky draw in stall 14, Jason Hart was urging his mount forwards throughout as George Boughey’s Perdika blazed a trail from stall one.
The Boughey raider still looked to have plenty up her sleeve as the field entered the final furlong but as the line approached Perdika’s stride was shortening, while Highfield Princess was edging ever closer and in the shadow of the post, the six-year-old surged to the front to register a welcome return to the sprinting big-time.
Quinn said: “I’m thrilled really. Down the years we have had plenty of horses run really well at this wonderful meeting. In the Abbaye, El Astronaute was third, Liberty Beach was beaten two heads, Safe Voyage was beaten two heads in the Foret.
“It is one of the greatest meetings in the world and I hoped I would one day train a winner here and it is wonderful.”
He went on: “She tries hard and you could say from where she was drawn she was inconvenienced. But she toughed it into the race and toughed it out of the race because two furlongs out she was flat out, but fair dues to her.
“It was a very brave decision (to keep her in training) considering she had won three Group Ones in Europe and was probably one of the best fillies around. I’m so pleased they have been totally vindicated.
“She’s shown she’s as good as any sprinting mare in the world. She showed today what a top-class, sprinting filly she is.”
Quinn will now be urging Highfield Princess’ owners to give the go-ahead for a second tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint having finished fourth at Keeneland last November.
When asked about the mare’s next run being at Santa Anita next month, Quinn said: “Why not? It was all about today and she came through it well.
“We were very happy with her the last couple of weeks. I will need to speak to my owner but I would be strongly suggesting it.
“We needed to see how today went and today went very well. I wouldn’t rule out the Breeders’ Cup or the big sprint at Hong Kong in December.
“It’s John and his family’s decision whether she’ll race on next year, but as long as she’s OK she could go to Santa Anita or Sha Tin.”
Hart added: “She was flat out all the way. It was only in the last 50 yards when the leader tied up that I knew we were going to win. What a mare, she’s so tough.”
Perdika kept hold of the silver medal with Aidan O’Brien’s Aesop’s Fables and Tom Clover’s Rogue Lightning also on the premises.