POPULAR Group 1-winning mare Princess Zoe could soon be set to embark on a potential path to the Cheltenham Festival, with a hurdling debut pencilled in for next Monday at Punchestown if she pleases connections in two crucial schooling sessions this week.

Trainer Tony Mullins had raised the possibility of Princess Zoe being sent over hurdles after Paddy Kehoe and Philomena Crampton’s high-class flat performer was bought back for 300,000gns at last year’s Tattersalls December Mares Sale, but the 2020 Prix du Cadran heroine has yet to be seen over jumps.

Mullins has now indicated that the Punchestown Members Club Mares Maiden Hurdle over an extended two and a half miles next Monday will be her first step towards a possible crack at the Cheltenham Festival - provided her schooling preparations go to plan in the coming days.

The eight-year-old daughter of Jukebox Jury is currently priced between 10/1 and 25/1 for the Ryanair-backed Mares' Novices' Hurdle, a Grade 2 that will carry the name of the late Jack de Bromhead this year after a poignant gesture from owner and sponsor Michael O’Leary.

Speaking on Monday, Mullins told The Irish Field: “We have her back in training at the moment as the owners would like to have a go at hurdling. She will school over hurdles on Tuesday and Friday, and a decision will be made then on whether she goes hurdling. We have our eye on a mares’ maiden hurdle next Monday at Punchestown if all goes to plan.

“She’s done enough so far in her schooling to say that she’s able to jump, but she hasn’t jumped at racing pace yet. She will this week. She was quite good over Willie’s schooling hurdles for what she was asked to do. Hopefully the next session works and we can move on to Punchestown.”

One-time Derby favourite and Group 2 Beresford Stakes winner High Definition last month managed to make a successful transition to hurdling from top-level flat racing, and Mullins is eager to see if Princess Zoe can make her mark in high-class company over jumps.

“It’s very rare that a Group 1-winning flat horse jumps a hurdle,” said Mullins. “The last couple of Group 1 winners I can remember over hurdles are Kasbah Bliss and Wicklow Brave. Very few Group 1 winners do this, particularly mares, but we have a sporting owner when it comes to Princess Zoe.

“As I said to Paddy, I’m not interested in going hurdling just to win a race or two. If she’s not a Cheltenham contender, I’d like to stop.”