Tag Archive for: Princess Zoe

Princess Zoe poised for Easter assignment at Fairyhouse

Tony Mullins will keep Princess Zoe over jumps for the time being as he feels there is more money to be made than by running her on the Flat.

Runner-up to Subjectivist in the Ascot Gold Cup in 2021 and winner of the Group Three Sagaro Stakes at the Berkshire track last April, the popular eight-year-old made a winning start to her hurdling career, dead-heating with Ladybank at Punchestown in January.

Thrown into the deep waters of the Jack De Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham for her second attempt in this sphere, Danny Mullins’ mount finished a creditable fifth to You Wear It Well after a mistake at the final flight.

Mullins was far from disappointed with the popular grey’s four-and-a-half-length defeat.

He said: “We were delighted. I suppose that her second run over hurdles, when she really came off the bridle going to the second-last, there was a little lack of experience, but it was a good run.

“She needs further. We were caught between two miles or a full three miles in the Albert Bartlett.

“We decided that with the Albert Bartlett, which we had her entered for, we felt in the last couple of weeks it had turned out to be a good race, but I don’t know. Was it?

“The three (miles) would have been extreme for her second run over hurdles, so we went for this race (two miles and one furlong), and now I’d love to see what would have happened if we went the other way!

“We wanted to ride a bit handier and Danny said he was as close as he could be without coming off the bridle early on.

“We didn’t want to put her off the bridle early. She came into it nicely and it was just the lack of experience coming to the last.”

Owners Paddy Keyhoe and Philomena Crampton are now exploring options as they are keen to continue her racing career.

While they have not ruled out another run in the Ascot Gold Cup, in which she finished a six-and-three-quarter-length sixth to Kyprios last June, connections are keen to see how far she can go over hurdles.

“The owner has said to me he has no interest in breeding, which suits me fine,” said Mullins. “He wants to race her as long as she is safe and sound.

“She had a few cuts and scrapes, but we are hoping that she’ll run on Easter Sunday at Fairyhouse – there’s a €100,000 mares’ novice (Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final).

“Just looking at that race, she would be 5lb worse off with the main protagonists (You Wear It Well and Magical Zoe), who carried penalties at Cheltenham but wouldn’t in a Grade One.

Tony Mullins may keep Princess Zoe hurdling for the time being
Tony Mullins may keep Princess Zoe hurdling for the time being (PA)

“That puts us 5lb worse off, but I think we’ll negate that with the extra half-mile, as it is over two and a half miles.”

For winning the Sagaro, Princess Zoe added £45,368 to her prize-money haul, which stands at over £420,000, but found herself subsequently beaten four times by Aidan O’Brien’s Kyprios.

“We’ve been looking at going on the Flat again. I’m sure she will, but she can win more money over jumps and I feel with a lot less opposition,” said Mullins.

“It is hard to believe, but the race is a €100,000 on Easter Sunday, the Punchestown mares’ novice is worth a €125,000, the Galway Hurdle is €300,000 and there is no Kyprios and the like to take on – and he’s the best stayer I’ve ever seen.

“What he did at Longchamp was breathtaking. He ran around like the Benny Hill Show and still won by 23 lengths!

“We haven’t dispensed with the idea (of a Gold Cup) but we feel there is so much money over jumps – which I can’t believe I’m saying, as this has never happened before – with less opposition.”

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Mullins favouring Mares’ assignment for Princess Zoe

Tony Mullins believes Princess Zoe has a “very serious winning chance” in whatever Cheltenham Festival race she runs in, with the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle her likely landing spot.

The popular grey made a winning hurdling debut, dead-heating in the a mares’ maiden at Leopardstown, having previously been a regular top-class performer on the Flat, where she secured a Group One triumph in the 2020 Prix du Cadran, as well as landing the Group Three Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.

While she was set to be retired for broodmare duties in 2023, she failed to meet her reserve price at the Tattersalls December Sale, prompting connections into a rethink.

Though she made a winning start over hurdles, sharing the spoils with Ladybank in the extended two-and-a-half-mile contest, bookmakers were largely unimpressed, offering a general 16-1 for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and 20-1 for the Albert Bartlett.

Mullins is eyeing the former, however, and said: “We were delighted with the run and relieved to get the dead-heat.

“Her preparation didn’t go perfect, in so far as we had a frozen week and a washed-out week the first two weeks of January.

Connections with Princess Zoe after her hurdling bow
Connections with Princess Zoe after her hurdling bow (PA)

“I thought it was a fantastic performance. Obviously, the betting suggests that I’m the only one impressed. I was surprised that she didn’t shorten, but maybe they’re right.

“I couldn’t be happier. Our preparation went right, our race went right and if everything goes right from here on in, I still believe that she is there with a very serious winning chance.”

The eight-year-old has the option of the three-mile Grade One Albert Bartlett and the Grade Two Mares’ Novices’ race, also known as the Dawn Run, which is run over a distance of two miles and one furlong.

Mullins is now swaying towards Princess Zoe taking on her own sex.

He added: “I thought the Albert Bartlett looked quite weak a month and a half ago, but there are a couple of horses there, Willie’s (Mullins) horse that won at Thurles (Embassy Gardens) and a couple of other ones I saw won in England. It is now a stronger Albert Bartlett.

“So while we are not writing anything in stone, we are now training her with the mares’ novice in mind.

Princess Zoe has always been the apple of Tony Mullins' eye
Princess Zoe has always been the apple of Tony Mullins’ eye (PA)

“If a couple of hotpots come out of the Albert Bartlett, we’ll see.

“We have the one beautiful thing that very few have – we know we have the class to win over two (miles), we know we have the stamina to win over three. We don’t care if it is good to firm – we have won Group races on the Flat with that – we don’t care if it’s heavy, we’ve won Group Ones on that. So, nothing matters to us now, only our preparation.

“I would say we are confident that everything has gone right. We’d love to have had two or three runs over hurdles, but considering everything, we are confident.

“If her preparation goes right, I will be interested to see what could beat her.

“She has travelled a lot and she has never had a problem with travelling. We have most things covered now and if everything goes right for the next three weeks, we’ll be there quite happy to take on whatever arrives.”

Princess Zoe could also return to the Flat in the summer, with the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot again on the agenda.

Kyprios (right) is the best stayer Mullins has seen
Kyprios (right) is the best stayer Mullins has seen (Adam Davy/PA)

She was runner-up to Subjectivist in 2021 and beaten six and three-quarter lengths by Kyprios in the two-and-a-half mile feature last June.

Mullins fears the Aidan O’Brien-trained winner will be near impossible to beat, yet is not going to duck the challenge.

“Paddy (Kehoe, part-owner) has said to me from the very start that racing is his priority and breeding is a lovely little added extra, but is the least thing on his mind,” said Mullins.

“As long as we feel she is safe and sound to stay racing, he wants to stay racing. He is a racing man and and great racing fan.

“Kyprios blew us out of the water altogether last year. I think he is an absolute phenomenon. I would put him above Yeats, Stradivarius and all of them. I think he’s the best stayer I’ve ever seen.

“He is so superior from anything we know of at the moment. He was better at Longchamp than he was at the start of the season, so he is only getting better.

“We are going to enjoy our racing and if he’s there it is going to be a pity – but we’ll give him a go!”

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Princess Zoe has to settle for dead-heat on jumping debut

Princess Zoe had to settle for a share of the honours on her jumping debut at Punchestown, after a dead-heat finish to the Bar One Racing “Bet 10 Get 50 Sign Up Offer” Mares Maiden Hurdle.

The Tony Mullins-trained grey has been a fantastic servant over the past four years, with a Group One triumph in the 2020 Prix du Cadran the highlight of a Flat career that also saw he win the Group Three Sagaro Stakes at Ascot and finish second to Subjectivist in the Gold Cup.

She looked set to be retired for broodmare duties in 2023, but failed to meet her reserve price at the Tattersalls December Sale, prompting connections into a rethink.

Following a pleasing schooling session last week, Princess Zoe was given the green light to give hurdling a go with a view to a potential appearance at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Despite her exploits on the level, she was not even favourite for her first start in the National Hunt sphere, with the Willie Mullins-trained Pink In The Park preferred at a shade of odds-on at 10-11.

The top two in the market were the first two in the race for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey, with 5-4 chance Princess Zoe asserting into a clear lead on the second circuit under Danny Mullins.

Having jumped adequately in the main, the eight-year-old looked to have victory sewn up after travelling strongly into the straight, but she flattened the final flight, giving Henry de Bromhead’s Ladybank – carrying the Honeysuckle colours of Kenny Alexander under Rachael Blackmore – a real shot on the run-in.

There was nothing to choose between the pair on the approach to the winning line and they flashed by as one. After a tense wait, the judge confirmed he could not split them and declared a dead-heat.

Paddy Power make Princess Zoe a 16-1 chance for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, which appears likely to be her target over the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe at Punchestown
Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe at Punchestown (Gary Carson/PA)

And Mullins, who admitted to being nervous about whether his stable star would take to the jumping game, is confident there is more to come from her ahead of the Festival.

He said: “We’re very happy with her. Danny said he thought she was a little guessy on her own at one or two of them.

“At the moment we’re thinking of the mares’ novice at Cheltenham but it’s not definite. It looks the logical way as opposed to the Albert Bartlett.

“I thought she was a little gassy having not run for a while. That might have emptied her a little.

“We had all her work done at home but she needs that run to bring her to herself. Danny said when she was gassy early on he’d let her go to the front and then she just had nothing with her. I think it was a very good performance to jump out and make all.”

He added: “I’m very happy with her. She’s taken to jumping and she’s brave, usually they might be ducking at hurdles but she didn’t do any of that.

“I don’t think she’ll run again before Cheltenham.”

Looking beyond the Festival, Mullins is not ruling out the possibility of Princess Zoe reverting to the Flat for some of the major staying prizes later in the year.

Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe at the 2020 Galway Festival
Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe at the 2020 Galway Festival (PA)

He added: “Paddy (Kehoe, part-owner) has always said to me that as long as she’s able to run breeding is only secondary to him. Who am I to complain?

“It’s great for the likes of me because we’ll never have the likes of her again. She’s just a great mare.

“Something did happen last year (on the Flat), we never noticed in her work but maybe Kyprios is such a powerhouse that it emptied her.

“Every time we thought we were going to get back and show him but we never did. I’d say Kyprios is one of the all-time greats, that’s what I think. We might have another go at him.”

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Princess Zoe closing in on hurdling debut

Group One-winning mare Princess Zoe could make her hurdling debut as soon as next week following a satisfactory schooling session on Tuesday.

Trained by Tony Mullins, the popular eight-year-old proved to be a consistent and versatile performer on the Flat, with highlights including a top-level success in the 2020 running of the Prix du Cadran, a Sagaro Stakes victory last year and a silver medal behind Subjectivist in the 2021 Ascot Gold Cup.

Retired from duties on the level following a fourth placed finish in the Prix Royal-Oak in October, Princess Zoe was sent to the Tattersalls Mares Sale in December – but having failed to raise what connections were expecting, Patrick Kehoe and Philomena Crampton’s high-class mare returned to Mullins, with a possible switch to the jumping game mooted.

That tentative plan is now set to become a reality, with Punchestown’s Join The Punchestown Members Club Mares Maiden Hurdle over two and a half miles on January 30 a possible starting point as connections bid to discover whether a trip to the Cheltenham Festival is a realistic target.

Princess Zoe ridden by Joey Sheridan (right) winning the Longines Sagaro Stakes on Royal Ascot Trials Day
Princess Zoe ridden by Joey Sheridan (right) winning the Longines Sagaro Stakes on Royal Ascot Trials Day (John Walton/PA)

“She schooled well and we were quite happy with her,” said Mullins.

“We will see how she is and we’re considering Punchestown next Monday and we’re also looking at options at Fairyhouse (February 8) and Thurles (February 9) as well. But she schooled adequately and we’re quite happy that she is well able to jump.

“She will be out sooner rather than later because the only reason she is going hurdling is with a view to Cheltenham.”

He went on: “I think we’re leaning towards going there (Cheltenham) with just the one run.

2020 Galway Summer Festival – Day Six – Galway Racecourse
Trainer Tony Mullins after Princess Zoe wins the Galway Shopping Centre Handicap during day six of the 2020 Galway Festival (PA)

“The Johnstown Hurdle (at Naas) is an option on February 26, but it’s quite tight for Cheltenham. It’s different for those in England, but we have to travel as well, so having a run within 21 days of her prime target is not ideal I don’t think.”

Although handed an entry for the Albert Bartlett over three miles at the Festival, Mullins believes Princess Zoe’s class will see her prove versatile over obstacles and he would have no hesitation running over an extended two miles in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle – a race for which she is a best price of 25-1 with Unibet.

He added: “There’s nothing dyed in the wool, but having won a Prix du Cadran over two-and-a-half the three miles of the Albert Bartlett wouldn’t be a worry – and having won a Listed race over a mile and a half, I’m not worried about the Mares’ Novice either.

“Early on the Albert Bartlett looked the weaker of the three novice hurdles and I just wasn’t against it, so we gave her an entry. We’re keeping our options open.”

Following her ultra-successful Flat career, Princess Zoe is finally getting the chance to do what she was originally bought for by her National Hunt loving owners – despite some trepidation from the trainer.

“The owners are staunch National Hunt fans and I’ve gone along with it, but I’m quite worried about a Group One winner jumping hurdles,” said Mullins.

“I’m not against it but it wasn’t my call, I wouldn’t do it myself.

“That’s what she was originally bought for (jumping), but she’s a Group One, Group Three and Listed winner on the Flat. The owners would like to go jumping if there was a chance she would make Cheltenham, so we will give it a go.”

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Monday Musings: Joy and Pain in the Rain

One of the clichés of modern sport is No Pain No Gain, writes Tony Stafford. At Longchamp on Sunday, because of a batch of contaminated Gain horse feeds with the non-permitted ingredient Zilpaterol, there was plenty of pain (and rain) for the Ballydoyle contingent and all ante-post supporters.

First it was Love, sensibly withdrawn when the ground went from good to soft to truly heavy, in the first couple of days after last week’s offering in this place was rendered non-sensible by the Parisian deluges. Around the same time, Serpentine was supplemented into the race and I recall telling my pal Scott Ellis that it was a master-stroke – he’d be the only pace in the race and would have a similar solo from the front as he had at Epsom.

After all, had he not had the one atypical – in other words running in midfield – dress rehearsal in his course and distance comeback in stablemate Mogul’s Prix Niel after a 71-day gap following his all-the-way Derby victory?

That possible tactic would have probably altered the eventual time of 2 minutes, 39.30 seconds, which apart from Ivanjica, 0.10 sec slower in 1977, was the third slowest since 1941. Puissant Chef with a funereal 2min 44.00 in 1960 holds that dubious honour.

In the event Sottsass followed last year’s third to Waldgeist and Enable by winning the race for Jean-Claude Rouget. In Swoop in second, and the miler Persian King, who was allowed to set a slow pace, filled the places.  Enable, on what will likely be her final valiant try, was sixth of the 11, just ahead of fellow six-year-old and stable-companion Stradivarius in seventh. Meanwhile Japan, Mogul, Sovereign and Serpentine were left kicking their hooves while alternative feed supplies were organised and important autumn and winter schedules were urgently addressed.

Sottsass, a son of the crack French-based stallion Siyouni, is out of a Galileo mare who has also bred the top-class US racemare Sistercharlie, a seven-time Grade 1 winner, including at the Breeders’ Cup, for owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown. Sottsass also runs in the colours of Brant’s White Birch Farm, and given the closeness of the New Yorker to the Coolmore partners, it is hardly a shock to find they negotiated a half-share at the beginning of the year with a future stud career in mind.

Friend Scott was initially tempted by the 14-1, but whether he got round to striking a bet I’m unsure as the 14’s proved elusive. Plenty will have got on however and I’m wondering whether any bookmaker will be kind enough to grant an amnesty over non-runners, especially those caused by what the horses had eaten rather than their ground preferences.

Love lives to fight another day, although with the amount of rain that fell on Ascot before Saturday – more than enough to wash out the important fixture on Arc eve at Her Majesty’s racecourse – whether they’ll want to go to the Champions Day card is another matter. The Breeders’ Cup seems the obvious choice.

I know the Editor dislikes my gravitating into areas of sport, but the almost overlapping 2019-20 and 2020-21 Premier League seasons have already shown enormous effects of Covid-19. For No Pain No Gain – replace it with No Cheer, No Fear. How else would Manchester United (third in the late-finishing previous season) be allowed to keep shipping goals to Tottenham at Old Trafford to the extent of a 6-1 record home loss? Or Liverpool allow a series of defensive mistakes to translate into a 7-2 loss to Aston Villa, one of two 100% teams along with Everton.

As recently as July 11, during the re-convened season interrupted after the weekend before Cheltenham, Aston Villa had 27 points and were 19th of the 20 teams. Bournemouth had 28 and Watford 31. Eight points from their final four matches to the end of July brought them to 35, ending a point above their two rivals who were relegated.

Meanwhile Liverpool ended the season on 99 points, clear of Manchester City and Manchester United. The three elite teams conceded a very similar total of respectively 33, 35 and 36 goals in their 38 matches. Already this season, Liverpool in four games have given away 11 goals, a third of last year’s tally; Man C, seven (so one-fifth of last time) in three and Man U 11, so just under a third of a season’s total, in three games!

Something’s up, be it the short gap between the two seasons, or be it psychological – none of the usual hero-worship but a magnification of the social media attention by fans unable to attend matches, is grinding players down. Three internationals for the elite players over the next two weeks could only magnify the weirdness.

Footballers are being shown to be only human and I marvel at the fact that clubs can routinely consider paying by all accounts up to £100 million to secure the transfer of a single player as Manchester United have been trying all through this latest transfer window.

To pay those sums for players while allowing lower league clubs to go out of business for less than a single player’s weekly salary exposes the immorality of the sport and its television paymasters. Of course, I and probably many of you who read these words are complicit just by paying the monthly subscription.


I had intended leaving mention of the Arc to others this week, but several attempts to track down my intended featured subject came to naught. Nobody answered the phone at Tony Mullins’ stables near Gowran yesterday and I have to suspect that his two-week isolation might have started with him and the owners being slightly tired and emotional.

The reason for his probably delicate condition was easy to understand. In a training career dating back 33 years, Tony Mullins has operated rather in the shadows of his brother Willie, but his skills as a trainer and identifier of a good horse are widely appreciated.

He was a brilliant jockey in his day, and a frequent partner of Dawn Run. The great mare was trained by his father Paddy and, while Tony enjoyed many winning days, the two biggest of her career in the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup were shared by Jonjo O’Neill.

Tony Mullins has never had massive strings, but knew how to develop a young horse, win a race with him and then pass him on. As the years went by the totals dropped but he still has the knack as his handling of the four-year-old hurdler Scalino this year shows. Scalino had run in six maiden hurdles without getting into the first three before turning up at Punchestown early last month in an 18-runner handicap.

Starting 20-1 he was closing up to the leaders when hampered by a loose horse, but soon challenged. He went to the front before two out, soon went clear and was eased on the run-in but still won by 13 lengths at 20-1.

Earlier in the year Mullins took charge of a German mare, a five-year-old who had raced regularly in the two previous seasons earning two wins and eight places from 15 appearances. Mullins had her ready for her Irish debut late in June and obviously thought her capable of a big run off the 64 handicap mark allotted by the Irish handicapper in collaboration with his German counterparts.

Backed to 4-1, she got within a length of the winner in a 16-runner handicap over 1m5f at Navan. That reverse was put right the following month when she won the 15-runner Ladies’ Derby at the Curragh off 70 by five easy lengths.

Three wins followed at Galway. The first two came at the big summer meeting, initially over 2m1f in a Premier handicap off 83 then comfortably a few days later with a 7lb penalty under claiming rider Joey Sheridan. The 18-year-old was again in the saddle when the mare, a daughter of Alan Spence’s tough horse Jukebox Jury, now a successful stallion in Germany, won the Listed Oyster Stakes. That day, back at 1m4f, she beat the mare Barrington Court and Oaks runner-up, Ennistymon.

Mullins didn’t hesitate, aiming at the Group 1 Prix du Cadran on the first day of the Arc meeting. After her run of success, she started the second favourite behind Call The Wind, winner of the race in 2018 and runner-up last year. Joey Sheridan, naturally unable to claim, sat in mid-field in the nine-horse marathon, while prolific winning stayer Alkuin was allowed a long lead. Coming to the straight Sheridan went in pursuit of the leader who still held a big advantage.

In the last furlong, though, the relentless mare cut into the deficit and caught the leader a few yards from the line with Call The Wind toiling 15 lengths back in third and the rest needing a telescope to find them.

Afterwards a jubilant Mullins said he would not hesitate to run Princess Zoe at a mile and a half and cheekily suggested next year’s Arc as a possible target. I wouldn’t put it past this modern-day alchemist to go where Enable couldn’t (not this year anyway!).

Tony Mullins has crossed my path a few times over the decades, usually to my rather than his benefit. There was the time I suggested he might want to land a gamble in the UK, and he earmarked Carla Adams, a mare who had been initially with Ginger McCain, to fit the bill. She had a couple of runs in low-grade hurdles for Wilf Storey, finishing third in the second of them. The day was set for Hexham but she disappointed. Wilf said he couldn’t work out why she never seemed to get any fitter and a few months later when the foal came, we had our answer.

It was more than a decade after that, crossing towards the conveniences at Cheltenham, when Tony stopped me, interrupting his own call saying, ”Wait, I need to talk to you.” As I’ve recorded here more than once he said I shouldn’t miss his one in the last.

I was with Raymond Tooth that day, watching Punjabi finish fourth in the Triumph Hurdle a few weeks after I’d first met him when the horse won at Kempton. Before Raymond left the track, I passed on Tony’s advice on Pedrobob, and the horse duly won the County Hurdle from 27 others under Paul Carberry at 12-1. On the Monday morning Raymond called and offered me the job as his racing advisor.

Until Saturday, Pedrobob was probably Tony’s most valued winner, but the £87k prize for the owners, a Group 1 win, and what more might be to come with Princess Zoe must be the supreme moment for this lovely man. I couldn’t have been happier. For Tony, over the years there’s been plenty of pain, so at last some real joy in the rain.

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