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Blind purchase pays off with powerful Princess

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Finny Maguire elicited a storming run from Princess Zoe up the hill to register her first win of the week at Galway on Monday night before she won again under Joey Sheridan yesterday

Finny Maguire elicited a storming run from Princess Zoe up the hill to register her first win of the week at Galway on Monday night before she won again under Joey Sheridan yesterday

SPORTSFILE

Finny Maguire elicited a storming run from Princess Zoe up the hill to register her first win of the week at Galway on Monday night before she won again under Joey Sheridan yesterday

Gordon Elliott has spoken of how he "threw the toys out of the pram and was effing and blinding" when Eddie O'Leary sent him Tiger Roll. The trainer coveted, and had recommended, another more expensive Gigginstown acquisition, but that horse was sent elsewhere.

Elliott can joke about his fit of pique now, not least because the Pegasus he had ogled produced nothing on the track, while the Jerry O'Brien-bred 10-year-old, who has just returned from his holidays, is now one of the most popular horses in training, with two Aintree Grand Nationals and four Cheltenham Festival triumphs on his CV.

Princess Zoe still has a bit to go to match that level of achievement, but the heroine of last Monday night's Galway feature, the Connacht Hotel Handicap, is quite promising. And much like Tiger Roll, there is an element of fortune about her ending up at Wateree Stud in Gowran.

The German-bred daughter of former Irish St Leger winner Jukebox Jury had followed up a very eye-catching runner-up appearance on her Irish debut at Navan at the end of June, by bolting up under Jody Townend in the Ladies' Derby at the Curragh a fortnight ago.

As Townend would renew the association with Great White Shark that brought them both glory in the amateur riders' feature 12 months previously, Tony Mullins turned to Finny Maguire to assume navigational duties.

The Cork pilot, son of Gold Cup-winning jockey and former trainer Adrian, lost his claim in a very fitting fashion, eliciting a storming run from Princess Zoe up the hill to register a one-and-a-quarter-length victory. And she scored again under Joey Sheridan when making a quick reappearance at Galway yesterday. All of which looked very unlikely when the trainer first clapped eyes on the five-year-old, by which stage he had already bought her for a very loyal owner.

"A man called Bernard Cullinane found her for me in Germany, as he's found Party Playboy, Coolfighter and numerous others," Mullins explained. "We've had great success with horses we have bought from Germany. We can buy them off the Flat. German horses have a great ability stamina-wise. I find them very tough when you up them in distance, as opposed to English and French horses . . . some of them take to jumping or take to distance races, whereas the real German pedigrees really stay. That's what I like, is horses that you can up in distance all the time.

"When I looked up where she was, the (logistics) were so difficult . . . she had run and most of the horses we bought in Germany were fine so I said, 'Here, I'm not going to go that journey', and didn't go. (I was) lucky, very lucky that I didn't go because when she arrived home she'd quite crooked legs and I know if I went to Germany I wouldn't have bought her. So thanks be to God I bought her on the phone and when she arrived I couldn't do anything about it.

"I couldn't send her back. They had been paid and she was there but I can tell you, I was going to be very embarrassed with Paddy Kehoe - we bought her on his behalf! We let her settle in for about a month and the first time I worked her I knew that we had made no mistake."

Kehoe would probably have forgiven Mullins, as they have been enjoying success in tandem for almost 40 years.

The most famous of the Kehoe horses in training with Mullins' legendary father Paddy was Grabel, a prolific mare who won 26 times, most famously in the Duelling Grounds Hurdle at Kentucky Downs in 1990 worth $750,000 to the victorious connections.

Tony did the steering and Kehoe has continued to support him through a training career that had already begun by the time Grabel conquered America, Afford A King having been conditioned to claim the Galway Plate two years earlier. Most of their horses have won, with Party Playboy, a dual hurdles victor who has proven very consistent on the Flat. That form includes finishing second in the English Cesarewitch last October - to Stratum, trained by Mullins' brother Willie.

Party Playboy is on the easy list at present having sustained a leg injury after an 11-length triumph in a novice hurdle at Fairyhouse last November, but Princess Zoe looks bound to carry the Kehoe colours at Newmarket this time around.

"We're thinking about the English Cesarewitch but we might also look at a bit of black type because she has a good pedigree. I'd say at this stage she might look better than (Party Playboy). She has to prove it now. He's done it off 82 and 83 but she's done it off 83. Between the two of them now, if we get him back next year, it'll be exciting."

The targets don't stop there. "Paddy has her already backed for the Mares' Novice Hurdle in Cheltenham so I suppose she'll be schooled anyway," revealed Mullins with his trademark grin.

Now that would be something to look forward to indeed.

Sunday Indo Sport