Tony Mullins eyes Group One glory in Paris with Princess Zoe

Trip and ground not to trouble talented mare in €180,000 Prix Du Cadran, says handler

Princess Zoe (far right) will be just a second Group One runner for Tony Mullins on Arc weekend in Paris. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Princess Zoe will try to put a Group One seal on perhaps the biggest feel-good story of a turbulent racing year in Paris this Saturday.

The Tony Mullins-trained mare is among the favourites for the €180,000 Qatar Prix Du Cadran and will once again try to confound expectations in France's greatest staying race.

The tale of Princess Zoe’s transformation from an ordinary handicapper to potential top-flight winner since arriving in Mullins’s yard from Germany has helped lighten the tone of a season dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.

After winning a Curragh handicap in July off an official rating of 70 she has subsequently won three times at Galway, twice at the summer festival, and making light of the subsequent jump to Listed class in the Oyster Stakes at Ballybrit earlier this month.


Now rated almost three stone higher on 109, Princess Zoe and her 18-year-old jockey Joey Sheridan will try to become the first Irish-trained winner of the Cadran in over a decade.

The top local stayer Call The Wind, winner of the Cadran in 2018, tops the betting for one of the first Group One highlights of Arc weekend at Longchamp.

However Princess Zoe’s growing reputation is such she is rated a 7-2 second favourite in some lists, ahead of Aidan O’Brien’s 2019 Irish Derby winner, Sovereign.

It is a rare opportunity for her trainer to compete at the top level on the flat and Princess Zoe will be just a second Group One runner for Tony Mullins.

“We had one before. Dolmur ran in the Irish Guineas [12th to Indian Haven in 2003] and ended up running in the four-miler at Cheltenham! But this is a first with a realistic chance,” he said on Tuesday.

The former champion jump jockey has been training for 33 years and tasted Cheltenham festival success in 2007 with Pedrobob in the County Hurdle.

However, a training career spent mostly in the shadow of his older brother, Willie, could now enable him carve out a singular place in Saturday’s historic race.

Only John Oxx’s Alandi, in 2009, has landed an Irish victory in the 2½ mile contest since subsequent Arc hero Levmoss scored for Séamus McGrath in 1969.

Marathon events may have lost some of their lustre since then but Mullins is under no illusions concerning the scale of the task.

“People say it’s a stayers’ race. I tell you it’s a serious race. Call The Wind is a proven Group One horse at this distance. He won in 2018 and he won a very valuable race in Riyadh (on February’s Saudi Cup card.)

“He is rated 117. Looking through the form he gained that on good ground. Now, he has still run to 108/110 by my reckoning on heavy ground. He and Sovereign are the obvious two although it’s hard to get a proper look at Sovereign,” said Mullins.

Princess Zoe won the big amateur handicap at the Galway festival over two miles but Saturday’s distance will be a new test of stamina. But Mullins believes the extreme trip and likelihood of testing ground will be to her advantage.

“The ground is not going to inconvenience her and I hope it will inconvenience them. I’m happy we will see out the 2½ [miles], the way she quickened up the steep hill at Galway. It’s really a matter of are we Group One class?” he said.

‘Massive improvement’

Such considerations were the last thing on his mind when Princess Zoe arrived from Germany to run for owner Paddy Kehoe.

“When we worked her I rang the owner and said this one wasn’t going to miss in a handicap and that she’d win off a penalty too. But I’d no idea she’d get to this.

“From race to race she has just improved massively. I hate saying anything that could pre-empt trouble but I think she’s better now than when going to Galway for the Listed race. Which she will have to be when you’re meeting these,” said Mullins.

Wednesday’s entry stage is likely to mean Derby winner Serpentine is supplemented into the Arc ahead of final declarations for Sunday’s big race .

Enable firmed up as favourite to land a potential record third victory in Europe’s greatest all-aged contest, with Aidan O’Brien’s filly Love slipping in the betting due to the likelihood of testing ground.

One horse that won’t line up at Longchamp is the English colt Telecaster who was taken out of the Arc on Tuesday after failing to please connections in a piece of work.

  • Wednesday's home action is at Punchestown where Gordon Elliott's bumper hope Sam's Choice looks to have the potential to go one better than his debut second at the track earlier this month.
Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column