Liberty Beach provided her owner-breeder and ROA member Philip Wilkins with many memorable moments during the 2019 season and he was delighted to see his star filly return to winning ways at Haydock on Sunday.

The John Quinn-trained filly, who had landed the Listed Dragon Stakes and Group 3 Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood last year, was making her first start since finishing second in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes having suffered a setback in September.

Despite pulling hard in the early stages of the Listed Cecil Frail Fillies’ Stakes, Liberty Beach gained the lead a furlong from home and held off the running-on Queen Jo Jo to win by three quarters of a length.

Wilkins said: “Obviously when she was injured towards the end of the season, there was a little bit of concern if she would overcome that, and she did. Then the concern came back when she was coming back to the racetrack for the first time.

“She did everything we wanted her to do [on Sunday], which was quite exhilarating – I’m still up there on cloud nine. We think 6f is as far as we’d like to go this year. We had initially thought about the Irish 1,000 Guineas but with everything that’s gone on, that was out of the window.

“Thankfully it was because having watched her race again, she was very gassy at the start as she likes to go quickly. She doesn’t like to hang around and she was pulling for her head quite early on which I thought wasn’t to her advantage.

“Once they start doing that, they don’t have anything left at the end, but she just dug in and held on. She has this will to win which is great.”

For Wilkins, who has always loved the sport of horseracing and has been involved as an owner for the best part of nearly 15 years, the story of how he came to be owner-breeder of Liberty Beach began several years ago.

“She did everything we wanted her to do [on Sunday], which was quite exhilarating”

Through his business Hexis UK, which was founded alongside his son Scott in the early 90s, Wilkins was involved with another form of racing before transferring to the sport of kings.

He said: “We found ourselves motor racing and we owned a couple of cars. When that ended and I sold the cars, I thought I hadn’t missed the money so thought I’d buy myself a racehorse. And that’s where it started.

“I had a horse with Mark Johnston, Supreme Charter, and then we moved him to Ed McMahon, and I was with him for a number of years until he called it a day because of HS2. We’d had a few injuries with our horses at the time and Rachel, Ed’s wife, suggested I take Flirtinaskirt and breed from her.

“We met Richard Kent down at Newmarket sales and I quite enjoyed his company, so I thought I’d give Richard a ring and we took Flirtinaskirt there and as they say, the rest is history.

“Richard has always been very interested in the pedigree and we’ve gone racing together when Liberty Beach runs. I’ve got a very good rapport with him and I just think he’s very, very good at what he does.”

When the decision came to send Flirtinaskirt for the mating that has produced Wilkins’ superstar, it was Kent who helped lend a hand.

“He knew of someone, whose name escapes me, who drew up a list of stallions,” Wilkins added. “I think Cable Bay was fourth on the list. He was within my budget I was willing to spend.

“We both agreed that was where she should go so, we sent her to Cable Bay. I’m very, very glad we did.”

As racing operates behind closed doors for the foreseeable future with only key personnel allowed to attend, Wilkins is awaiting the moment when owners will be able to see their horses on the track again.

He said: “We just can’t wait to be there again. That was the only disappointment about Sunday that we weren’t there to greet her when she came back in.

“It left me feeling a little bit flat at home in a way because you don’t get the build-up the same way you do when you’re at the course.

“You spend the time traveling to the course, going down to the pre-parade ring, the parade ring and then the butterflies kick. I didn’t feel they were on Sunday.”

Plans for the rest of Liberty Beach’s campaign this year are not set in stone according to Wilkins but the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye in October could be a potential target for the three-year-old.

He added: “We were initially thinking about going to Ascot but we’re now maybe considering keeping her to 5f given that she wants to travel as quickly as she can. So 6f against specialist 6f horses might not be to her advantage.

“We’re not exactly sure where we want to go with her, but we might be aiming for the Abbaye at the end of the year. We might go Group 3 then Group 2 as a route rather than just pitching her straight in.”

Talk of Royal Ascot brings back fond memories for Wilkins where last year Liberty Beach finished fourth in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes, having raced on the far side of the track.

“We both agreed that was where she should go so, we sent her to Cable Bay. I’m very, very glad we did”

Wilkins said: “That was a dream come true, just to go there and be part of the day was fantastic. For her to run fourth on the wrong side and win her race, it was just like we had won it.

“As far as Liberty Beach was concerned, she beat everything she needed to beat and couldn’t see the horses on the far side of the track. She’s something special. We’ve not reached those heights of horseracing before having been in Class 4, 5 and 6 racing.

“To have a horse that is quite remarkable for us and it’s very exciting.”

There is also more for Wilkins to look forward to with Liberty Beach’s two-year-old sister Virginia Plane, who is by Tally-Ho Stud’s Mehmas and finished fifth on her debut over 5f at Newcastle last Tuesday.

She looks set to reappear this weekend and Wilkins said: “She doesn’t have quite the same temperament but we’re hoping she has at least some of the ability Liberty Beach has got.”

Flirtinaskirt is one of three broodmares Wilkins has at Mickley Stud alongside Liberty Beach’s Heeraat half-sister Tease Maid and the dual-winning Where The Boys Are, a daughter of Dylan Thomas out of the Royal Applause mare Promise Of Love.

Asked whether he is likely to one day breed from his star Liberty Beach, Wilkins said: “Yes, I probably would but we would wait and see what happens. We got offered quite a lot of money after her second race and I thought no, I don’t want to sell her.

“I want to get the enjoyment of the success that I’ve never achieved. I’d never sell her now but when her racing career is over? Well, we’ll wait and see. Equally, her offspring should be worth a bit as well.

“As long as I’m enjoying it, I don’t see any reason not to continue it that way.”