The three-time Group 1 winner Highfield Princess’s owner-breeder has described his superstar sprinter’s brilliance as “utterly surreal,” as he prepares to attend his first Breeders’ Cup since his days as the man behind Channel 4’s coverage of the event.

Through his production company Highflyer, John Fairley, the long-time boss of Channel 4 Racing, was speaking to the Racing Post for a major interview in which he also discusses how racing used to treat his Channel 4 Racing team as “children,” the pilot episode of Heartbeat he produced that proved a £250,000 disaster, and his mighty mare’s extraordinary progress into a champion this season.

“I can scarcely believe what’s happened,” said Fairley.

“All this year I have been agog. I didn’t expect her to win the all-weather championship final, let alone the Duke of York and the three Group 1s that have followed. My whole family came to Ireland [for the Flying Five]. Everyone was shouting and screaming but I was silent and wide-eyed. I couldn’t believe how she was doing it so effortlessly. It’s utterly surreal to think how good she is now.

“I know she won three Group 1s in five weeks, which makes it look as though we have been rushing, but John [Quinn] has actually been marvellously good at taking his time with the filly. He has never pushed her. One of his many talents as a trainer is that sense of timing.”

John Fairley and groom Satrajeet Jhingree with Highfield Princess

The Breeders’ Cup is up next, where Fairley will be joined by his artist wife Kitty, three daughters, grandchildren, and many other loved ones.

“When we were doing Channel 4 Racing I did go to a couple of the early Breeders’ Cups,” he said, recalling being at Belmont Park in 1990 when Royal Academy won under Lester Piggott and Dayjur jumped that pesky shadow.

“To be part of it as an owner will be tremendous. One of the grandchildren will have to miss some time at school to be at Keeneland but it will be worth it. I once took my daughter Beatrice on a trip I was making to North Korea and China. Her then headmistress was offended I was taking her away from her lessons. I sent her a postcard from Beijing that included the words, ‘You should never let school interfere with education.’ I don’t think she ever forgave me for that.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *