Tony Mullins is “thinking big” as Princess Zoe makes her seasonal reappearance in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Noblesse Stakes at Cork.
Having been rated as low as 64 when she joined Mullins from Germany, the grey mare made rapid progress through the handicap ranks, winning five races – including the Group One Prix du Cadran.
She signed off for the season with a fourth-place finish behind Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist in the Prix Royal-Oak. But Mullins is keen to see in the early weeks of the season if she has the required pace for the top races over a mile-and-a-half, with the dream being a run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“The plan is to get two runs into her in April while there’s a cut in the ground, and then we’ll plan the rest of the season after that,” he said.
“I’m keen to go back over a mile and a half with her. People have it in their heads that she’s a dour stayer – but from the work I’m seeing, I think she’ll be as effective or if not more over that trip.
“She’s won over a mile and a half twice at Galway. Slow horses tend not to be able to do that.
“It’s anxious times for us – we’re not used to this.”
With Subjectivist winning in Dubai last weekend, there was clearly no disgrace in her defeat.
“Subjectivist was impressive in Dubai, and I thought her run behind him was equally as good as her first in my opinion. She’d had two trips to France – I thought that was very good,” said Mullins.
“Hopefully she’s as good this year. If she is, the world is our oyster.”
Assessing Saturday’s return, he said: “There are no easy races in Ireland now – they are so competitive.
“Having had a quick look, I thought Jessie Harrington’s (Flor De La Luna) and Ger Lyons’ (Yaxeni) would be the biggest dangers – but if we under-perform there’d be others.
“Her work seems to be as good. She wouldn’t be 100 per cent, but we’re not far off it. She’s a strange filly, because she loves hard work.
“We gave her a break after Longchamp, but she was very unhappy, and we had to put her back in light training all winter because she was very upset. She’s not like us, craving a break – she loves her work.
“So while she’s fit, she might not just be as razor sharp as she would be after a run or two.
“We’ve half an idea of running at Royal Ascot – then after that, I can’t see her running again until September. We have put her in the Yorkshire Cup, but we have a plan to go to the Vintage Crop at Navan at the end of April – if it came up firm we have the York option.
“It might mean meeting Stradivarius at York, but I can say if we can’t beat him then we haven’t got an Arc filly – we’re thinking big.