Tony Mullins is already planning a route back to the Prix du Cadran for his Gold Cup runner-up Princess Zoe – but warns he will do all he can to avoid another clash with her brilliant Royal Ascot conqueror Subjectivist.
Princess Zoe was a gallant runner-up to Mark Johnston’s commanding winner, with three-time Gold Cup winner Stradivarius behind her in fourth – in a renewal of the great race which Mullins rates stronger than any he has seen in the past half-century.
The Irish trainer is convinced Subjectivist, who also beat Princess Zoe in last year’s Prix Royal-Oak at ParisLongchamp, is yet to receive the full credit his talent deserves.
Mullins cannot see a way to beat “serious machine” Subjectivist – and while he will never again risk his mare on ground as quick as it was at Ascot on Thursday, he is equally intent on avoiding her old rival.
Princess Zoe was “very tired” but fine after her exertions and is likely to be seen next in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh in September, en route back to Paris a month later – with owner Patrick Kehoe’s dear wish to try her over hurdles still a possibility after the end of her top-flight 2021 Flat campaign.
Mullins said: “She was very tired when she came home, and a little puffy all round – that’s probably all the travelling straight after a hard race.
“But she’ll have a week off, and I’d say looking at her she’s fine.
“But we won’t ask her to run on that ground again.”
Storms were forecast at Ascot before the Gold Cup, but did not arrive in earnest until the following day – turning the going from good to firm to heavy.
“We were quite sure the rain was coming – even right up to two hours before the race, we thought enough was going to come,” said Mullins.
“It has never been our plan to run on that ground – and while she’s fine, you’d know she ran on it.
“It’s ground dependent again, but I would imagine at the moment we’re thinking of starting to train for the Irish Leger – and if that ground doesn’t work out, then a staying race in France, which should lead us into the Prix du Cadran.
“That’s our plan – and let’s hope Mark Johnston doesn’t have the same plan!”
Mullins is adamant Subjectivist has the makings of an all-time great – having shown remarkable adaptability in beating Princess Zoe into fourth in heavy ground in the Prix Royal-Oak, then impressively winning the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan en route to Ascot.
He said: “Subjectivist has handled (heavy ground) as well, and he beat us. Everyone thought our horse was tired (after winning the Cadran) in the Prix Royal Oak – (but) I feel she ran up to the mark.
“I don’t know how much he’s going to have to do for people to realise this is a serious machine.
“I remember 50 years of Ascot Gold Cups, and in my opinion that’s the best distance race I’ve ever seen in my life.
“I think Stradivarius ran up to his mark. People haven’t noticed yet (how good Subjectivist is) – that Ascot Gold Cup, there’s an Irish Derby winner, an English Derby winner, a French St Leger winner, a Prix du Cadran winner, a three-time Ascot Gold Cup winner and a Melbourne Cup winner.
“I’d say that never happened before – Classics, Melbourne Cup and triple Ascot Gold Cup winners were just thrown all over the place in that race. It was a phenomenal race.
“I don’t know if a bunch like that ever met before.
“It’s only in three years’ time people are going to realise the machine this horse is that won it.”
Mullins is therefore all the more proud of his mare that she was able to beat all bar Subjectivist.
“I’ve studied this race since last January, and I was astounded that we could mix with the best like that,” he said.
“I know she’s a very good mare, but these are the best in the world.
“Unfortunately, while I can see a way of beating every (other) horse in the world, I can’t see a way of beating this lad.”
As for Princess Zoe, the consensus has been that her jumping aspirations were surely on permanent hold – but Mullins will consider that route later in the year.
He said: “Paddy is a dyed-in-the-wool jumping man – he used to own Grabel, who won the big race in America (International Hurdle) many years ago.
“He loves jumping, and he keeps suggesting to me that we go jumping.
“I’m not sure her physique will suit jumping. But if he wants to go, I told him we’ll look at it again after the Cadran.”
Princess Zoe has already shown, on the schooling grounds at Mullins’ Gowran base, that she has some aptitude at least.
“She’s done what I call baby schooling, baby hurdles – and she jumped them quite well,” he said.
“She wasn’t fantastic. She was just one of a bunch jumping there, and she jumped grand.
“I’d be surprised if she can – but if she takes to it, I don’t mind doing it if he wants to.”