Princess Zoe dead-heats on jumping debut at Punchestown

A Group 1 winner on the Flat, Princess Zoe will run at Cheltenham with the Mares' Novices' Hurdle her preferred Festival target
Princess Zoe dead-heats on jumping debut at Punchestown

BATTLE ROYALE: Princess Zoe and Danny Mullins, left, and Ladybank with Rachael Blackmore share a dead heat. Picture: Healy Racing

A Group 1 winner on the Flat, Princess Zoe had to settle for a share of the spoils on her eagerly-awaited hurdling debut in the Bar One Racing Mares Maiden Hurdle in Punchestown, dead-heating with 40-1 shot Ladybank, in the Honeysuckle colours of Kenny Alexander.

Ridden by Danny Mullins, Princess Zoe went on at the third, hurdled fluently, with a couple of exceptions, and flattened the final flight before becoming involved in a great tussle with her Rachael Blackmore-ridden rival.

It was a case of heads up, heads down as the pair flashed past the winning post, 10 lengths clear of the remainder, and the judge was unable to split them.

The eight-year-old’s trainer Tony Mullins declared: “I’m very happy with her. She was a bit fresh and gassy early on and Danny said she was a but guessy, on her own, at one or two hurdles. But she’s brave and has taken to jumping.

“She had all the work done, but always needs a run and Danny felt she didn’t quite get home. I thought it was a very good performance, to jump out and make all first time over hurdles.

 “She’s just a great mare and she’ll go straight to Cheltenham now. We’re thinking about the Mares' Novice rather than the Albert Bartlett.

For Ladybank, this effort represented a significant step up on her debut run behind Deep Cave at Leopardstown.

Danny Mullins and his uncle Willie completed a double when Haxo, in the colours of the Noel Fehilly Racing Syndicate, captured the Bar One Racing Maiden Hurdle at the expense of his hot-pot stablemate Sir Argus.

Having made most of the running, despite some erratic jumping, the Paul Townend-ridden 4-11 favourite was in front when blundering badly at the final flight and opening the door for Haxo, who prevailed by a length.

“Haxo deserved it for his jumping — he’s a nice type, a chaser in the making,” stated Mullins. “He’s a second-season novice and jumped really well. The other horse must have lost his confidence after his fall in Clonmel, although he has schooled well at home since."

Sixth on his hurdling bow at Leopardstown over Christmas, 10-11 favourite Diverge (Paul Townend) bolted up in the opening Bar One Racing ‘Best Odds Guaranteed All Races’ Maiden Hurdle to spark the Closutton double, jumping to the front at the fourth and making the best of his way home from there, ultimately coasting home a 23-length winner from Mon Coeur.

“He improved a lot from his first run and the change of tactics helped,” said Mullins. “He was very free in Leopardstown and I told Paul not to fight him and he seemed to enjoy himself in front. He loves jumping and has an entry in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. We thought he’d be a Triumph Hurdle horse last year but there were complications after he was gelded and he needed time.” 

In-form Gavin Cromwell hit the target again when Theonewedreamof (Luke Dempsey) proved best in the first four-year-old handicap hurdle of the season, the Bar One Racing 'Price Boosts Across All Channels’ Handicap Hurdle, pouncing at the final flight before seeing off favourite Ludus by two and a half lengths.

The trainer stated:  “She’s a gutsy little filly and I thought she had a place chance. I suppose we’ll find another handicap for her and she’ll probably go back to the Flat later in the year.” 

Cromwell was denied a double when, having hit the front at the final flight, La Malmason failed by a half-length to cope with the renewed challenge of 9-4 favourite Sa Fureur in the Bar One Racing Rated Novice Hurdle.

In the handicap action, American Money, trained by Eddie and Patrick Harty and ridden by Kieren Buckley, defied joint top-weight and survived a stewards enquiry in the (80-95) Bar One Racing Handicap Hurdle.

And the Sam Curling-trained Ishan (Philip Enright) landed a tidy morning gamble in the finale, the three-mile 80-95 handicap, getting the better of Killinure Lass. The winner, backed in from 25-1 in the morning, drifted on track and was returned at 6-1.

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