Quinn the Generous recipient of fortune

A team player aims to become another title holder from the Henry Cecil camp A potentially devastating blow gave career of granite-hard Scot a timely boost.
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There are jockeys who have forged their career on winning the Derby, but perhaps only one who has made it for not doing so. When Richard Quinn lost the Epsom ride on Generous in 1991 there were those who could have wept for him. Significantly, that number does not include Quinn himself.

There are jockeys who have forged their career on winning the Derby, but perhaps only one who has made it for not doing so. When Richard Quinn lost the Epsom ride on Generous in 1991 there were those who could have wept for him. Significantly, that number does not include Quinn himself.

The Scot put his head down, like he always has done, in and out of the saddle, and showed that episode was the darkness before his personal dawn.

A decade on, Alan Munro, who rode Generous that June day, is no longer part of British racing but plying his trade in Hong Kong. Thomas Richard Quinn, however, now possesses probably the best riding job in Britain, that of stable jockey to Henry Cecil. It is a liaison which promises to bring him his first jockeys' championship.

Quinn turned the Generous publicity in his favour and made the most of, but did not ask for, any sympathy around at the time. Now he rides once again for Fahd Salman, the owner who jocked him off the Derby winner. "It wasn't just a case of losing Generous, because he was one of probably 30 horses the owner had in the yard," Quinn says. "He just happened to be the best of the bunch.

"It was unfortunate, but I was working with a team that had been there [at Paul Cole's yard] for 10 years plus and it was something we'd all worked for together. It wasn't all about me, I was just part of things there, so, even if I didn't reap any reward, the rest of the people I worked with did. I was happy for them because they had worked long and hard over many years for that moment, so to have gone around moaning about what I had lost would have been rather shallow.

"That's life. You can't just give up and throw your arms up at every little thing that goes wrong. If there are people who are happy to live that type of life, so be it. I've got to carry on. Everyone goes through their low points and it's the bad points which make you more resolute."

It is easy to imagine Quinn with a framed tapestry motto over the top of his bed, one which bears the proverb: that which does not destroy me makes me stronger.

There has always been Caledonian grit there. Like Willie Carson, the last Scot to be champion jockey, in 1983, Quinn hails from Stirling, the former seat of the Scottish monarchs. As an apprentice, he returned to his home town after a two-year spell at the romantically named but bereft of success Blink Bonny Stables of Herbert Jones in Malton. One day, however, Jones opened the door and saw the top of a head he recognised. Quinn had returned, which the trainer expected, as he had recognised something determined and independent-minded in the boy. "The love of the horse kept me in the sport," the jockey says.

These were qualities which Paul Cole too recognised when Quinn arrived at Whatcombe. "As a trainer, you wait for someone with a bit of potential because so many of them go through the motions of wanting to be jockeys but actually don't get stuck in," Cole says. "He was committed and you could spot the potential. It's no good wasting your time and horses on someone who is not committed.

"You got the feeling that he wanted to do it and that it was worth giving him a go. I spotted early on that he was committed and I gave him the chance. He took it, he's stuck to it and now he's as good as there is."

As he battled to make his name, Quinn was also trying to conquer physical disability. Like Lester Piggott, he has deafness in his right ear. "The way he looks at you makes you think he might not have heard it all," Cole says. "But he hears enough."

"When you talk to Quinny he has to cock his head to listen properly," one of his weighing-room colleagues adds. "He's a very dedicated and very professional jockey, very deep, and you never see him unfocused.

"When most of us come in after a bad ride we voice it and say 'bollocks' or something. When anything goes wrong with Quinny you can see him come back into the weighing-room and start going over it in his mind. You can see him watching the television and going through it all in his head.

"He's a real quiet person, very inward, a closed area to some extent. He's divorced and he's in a bit of a closed circle. I don't actually think anyone knows the true Richard Quinn."

Quinn was playing the role of the popular freelance until last August, when the aftershocks of Cecil's split with Kieren Fallon reached his home near Lambourn. It was a year this week and when Cecil offered Quinn the job as stable jockey at Warren Place there was no need to assemble a circle of family, close friends and confidants to discuss a response. "I said yes," says Quinn. "In a micro-second."

There were gentle grumblings within the yard in the early stages as the foot soldiers got used to Quinn replacing their beloved Fallon, but now the Scot is firmly part of the architecture. "I'm loving it," Quinn says. "It's given me a new lease of life. I don't need an alarm clock to get up for that job."

Quinn is following in a dramatic line at Warren Place: Joe Mercer, Piggott, Steve Cauthen, Pat Eddery and Fallon, champions together. Like us all, he has seen how Cecil likes to play the indolent dandy. Yet it is not like that at all. The trainer may be human anaesthetic in the mornings, his casually eccentric manner calming both horse and man around him, but it is a practised art.

"Over the years I obviously got to know what a genius he is with his horses," the jockey says. "You get trainers who produce good horses every now and again, but he does it every year. He knows his horses and he's highly organised.

"It's a massive establishment, with around 170 horses and 70 or 80 staff, yet there is never a hiccup. Everyone knows what they are doing and where they are going and the whole thing runs very smoothly. Unlike most of the yards I've been to, all the staff are highly experienced. We don't even have an apprentice there. They are all the older type of staff."

And at the spearhead of this operation is Quinn. He is the man who has to make it all work on the racecourse. "The pressure, the Royal Ascots and the Derbys, is what a jockey looks forward to," he says. "I relish it. I want those days to come along. If you don't get that feeling you might as well lie in bed.

"Obviously the championship is something I would like to put on my cv, but if I'm not champion I won't go crying about it. I'll just have another go next year. There's a long way to go and, as you can see with Kieren, your whole season can be dashed with one race."

There is also the imponderable of Cecil's recent road accident, in which two pensioners were injured and the nine-time champion trainer was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving. He is to report to Cambridgeshire police in two weeks' time.

His stable jockey is unlikely to make the news in quite the same manner. That is not Quinn's style. He prefers to quietly reflect on his own good fortune. "I'm privileged to be in this position and when I was younger and on the outside looking in it was the hope of something like this which kept me going," he says. "I'm very fortunate and it wasn't something I ever expected."

Now, as he approaches 39 in December, which seems a gross trick of the calendar when you consider his soft features, there are others banging on the window pane. "There are jockeys out there that put the same hours and graft in that I do but they just haven't stumbled across that right horse that lifts you up there," he says. "We all need to get the horse to give you recognition and then you can build on that with more horses and more stepping stones. You need one horse to elevate you out of the rut."

Quinn found that horse and when it was snatched away from him he did not allow the blow to demolish his career. Instead, it helped to build a monumental success.