Racing: Free rein for Quinn's drive

For one bold jockey, Longchamp will a landmark
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The Independent Online
THIS AFTERNOON Richard Quinn will take his first major flight since announcing a week ago that he was going to spread his wings after 17 years in a gilded cage. At Ascot last Sunday the 36-year-old jockey formally severed his connection with the trainer Paul Cole and in today's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe he rides Leggera for John Dunlop in opposition to two runners from his former stable.

The break-up of the second most enduring partnership in British racing (only Sir Mark Prescott and George Duffield have been together longer) was remarkably low-key and totally without acrimony. Quinn felt simply that the time had come to move on. "Nothing lasts forever," he said. "It was a hard decision to come to. And there was nothing personal involved."

That last is almost certainly true, for you do not have a professonal relationship with someone for nearly two decades if there is a clash of personality. But even if it was not, there would be no bad-mouthing from Quinn's lips. Through thick and thin - and sometimes very thin - with Cole the jockey has, like Brer Fox, "lain low and said nuffin".

Quinn, who shares his home town, Stirling, with Willie Carson, served three years with Herbert Jones before fetching up, as a winnerless 19- year-old, at Cole's then base, Hill House in Lambourn. His first success was came on Bolivar Baby in October 1981 and within three seasons the quiet young Scot was the country's champion apprentice. He was not the first to hold that title from that academy but unlike his two predecessors (Robert Edmondson and David Dineley), he does not fall into the "who they?" category.

Quinn stayed and flourished. In 1987, after the trainer was installed at palatial Whatcombe by his principal patron, Fahd Salman, he rode the team's first Group One winners, Zaizoom in the Italian Derby and Bint Pasha in the Yorkshire Oaks. In 1990 he won the Irish Oaks on Knight's Baroness and the Irish St Leger on Ibn Bey, followed by an inspired ride for second place on the colt in the Breeders' Cup Classic. And he rode his first, and so far only, English Classic winner on Martyn Arbib's Snurge in the St Leger.

But in this game of lightning shifts of fortune the outrageous slings and arrows were about to be unleashed and times were to become positively transparent. After finishing fourth on the stable star, Generous, in the 1991 2,000 Guineas Quinn found himself replaced on the colt thereafter and was watching on television in the jockeys' room at Beverley when the chestnut colt streaked to Derby glory under his replacement in the dark green silks, Alan Munro.

There had been a minor rift with Salman a few years earlier when he had dropped his whip a furlong from home on Insan in the Irish Derby before being beaten a short-head by Kahyasi. But this time the separation lasted six years.

Careers have foundered on smaller setbacks, but Quinn kept his own counsel and his dignified silence won him new friends and retained the old ones. It was noticable that, Salman runners apart, Cole pointedly stood by his man and Quinn resumed his climb towards the top.

But the constraints of his ties with and loyalty to Whatcombe have compromised one of his great ambitions, to follow his apprentice championship with the senior title. He has been one of the best riders in Britain for a decade, averaging more than 100 winners a season, and came close two years ago to being the best when his 149 winners put him in second place in the table to Pat Eddery.

There has never been anything on paper between Quinn and Cole, just an understanding that has survived though mutual respect. But this year, only 29 of the jockey's 90-odd winners have come from Cole and he has cast his net wider. Only the reigning champion, Keiren Fallon, has been more in demand this year.

Quinn is as tidy, thoughtful and determined off the track as on it and, though his public profile is nothing like, say, Frankie Dettori's, is one of the sport's outstanding ambassadors. He intends to ride as a freelance next year - retainers are becoming increasingly rare anyway - and if there is a certainty in racing it is that there will be no shortage of owners and trainers queuing for his services.

In last month's Prix Vermeille, one of the recognised Arc trials, Quinn, whose experience has been honed by winners in two dozen countries worldwide, was seen at his best. He took the race by the scruff early in the straight and the John Dunlop-trained filly was a willing partner as he timed things to perfection and persuaded her to keep pulling out enough to outstay Zainta and repel the late thrust of Cloud Castle.

"She loves soft ground and any rain will be to her advantage", he said, "but she is progressive - in the Vermeille she had certainly come on for her previous race - has won over the course and distance and we go there with every chance. But although it seems an open Arc, there is no such thing as a bad Arc, and the race will be very competitive."

Quinn's best Arc placing from seven rides was third on Snurge in 1990 and, with his feet on the threshold of a new phase of his life, he would be happy to improve on that today. But there will be no crowing if Leggera finishes in front of the Cole-trained pair Posidonas and Courteous today and no resentment if she does not.