Racing: Quinn hangs up saddle after a gifted career

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The Independent Online

The last of Quinn's 2,163 domestic winners came on one of the biggest stages, when he rode Young Mick to a head victory in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot 12 days ago. And though the abrupt ending of his 27-year riding career was a surprise to most, it was not to the man himself.

"I'd made up my mind a while back that I would finish this year, after the Royal meeting," said the 44-year-old Scot yesterday. "I wanted to ride on the new track, and it was a happy turn of fate that my last ride of the week was a winner. Win, lose or draw, it was always going to be my last ride of all, and it was a dream end to what has been a great part of my life.

"But it's just that it's time to move on to other things, a natural progression, and it's a decision I'm very comfortable with. I thoroughly enjoyed a day out watching some great tennis like an ordinary human being instead of scrambling off to Folkestone or wherever."

Stirling-born Quinn started with Herbert Jones in Malton in 1979 before moving south to join Paul Cole, who provided him with his first winner, Bolivar Baby at Kempton in October 1981, and guided him to the British apprentice championship three years later.

Cue another sporting comparison, this time with Colin Montgomerie. A senior title was never Quinn's and he could be the best man never to win one. He finished second in the table thrice, to Pat Eddery in 1996, to Kieren Fallon in 1999, the year when he notched his best-ever total of 151 winners, and to Kevin Darley in 2000. His 22 consecutive top 20 finishes on the table included 13 top ten spots and six in the top five.

Cole supplied the first of Quinn's three English Classic winners, Snurge in the 1990 St Leger, and also trained the best horse he ever rode, Generous. Ironically, Fahd Salman's brilliant chestnut may have been the catalyst that prevented his rider's transformation from star to superstar. Quinn lost the ride after finishing fourth in the 1991 2,000 Guineas and had to watch as his replacement, Alan Munro, went on to glory in the Derby, Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.

Despite being rebuffed by the late Salman, Cole's principal patron, Quinn continued his association with the yard until he went freelance in 1999. A year later he became Henry Cecil's stable jockey, finished third in the Derby on Beat Hollow and took the Oaks on Love Divine.

Unfortunately, his move to Warren Place coincided with Cecil's downturn in fortune; his victory on Beat Hollow in the Grand Prix de Paris that year was also Cecil's most recent at Group One level.

"Right place, wrong time," said Quinn. "We had a good first year, then the horses were sick, the old-school owner-breeders were dying. The job could have kept me rolling but the firepower wasn't there. You've got to have a challenge and I seem to have exhausted my opportunities."

Circumstances may have conspired against Quinn at times, but he rejects any notion that he has retired as a nearly man. "Certainly not," he said. "I have ridden some wonderful horses and racing has taken me to 22 different countries and I've ridden winners in 20 of them. It's been a marvellous career, not a job, a way of life, and a great life. Basically I've earned a living doing my hobby."

Quinn's other top-level wins include an Irish Oaks on Knight's Baroness, Irish St Legers on Ibn Bey and Strategic Choice, a French 1,000 Guineas on Culture Vulture and a second St Leger, in 2000, on Millenary.

It was two rides last year on the last-named John Dunlop-trained veteran that were a reminder of Quinn's arguably under-appreciated qualities. In the Lonsdale Cup, and then the Doncaster Cup, he humoured the eight-year-old to victory with ice-cool, kid-glove seductions as he held up the sometimes moody old warhorse until the last possible stride.

Quinn has not yet formulated a second career, but it will definitely not be training. "I'll take some time off, then take a view," he said, "but I'd like it to involve horses and racing in some form."

Chris McGrath

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