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.
“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.
“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.”