PRINCESS Zoe was the centre of attention at Punchestown last Monday but she had to share the headlines on her jumping debut. The Group 1 winner was sent to post 5/4 second choice in the Bar One Racing Mares Maiden Hurdle as Pink In The Park, who eventually finished fifth, headed the market at 10/11.

Danny Mullins was soon disputing on Princess Zoe and let his father Tony’s charge hit the front after a couple of flights in the two-and-a-half mile contest. It all looked to be going to plan for Paddy Kehoe’s mare as she swung into the straight in front but, after flattening the last, she was joined by Ladybank (rider lost whip) on the run-in.

There was nothing to split the pair in the closing stages and the judge couldn’t separate them at the line. Henry de Bromhead, trainer of the 40/1 shot who shared the spoils, wasn’t present afterwards but Tony Mullins was on hand and he said: “We’re very happy with her. Danny said he thought she was a little guessy on her own at one or two of them.

“At the moment we’re thinking of the mares’ novice at Cheltenham but it’s not definite. It looks the logical way as opposed to the Albert Bartlett. I thought she was a little gassy having not run for a while. That might have emptied her a little.

“We had all her work done at home but she needs that run to bring her to herself. I’m hoping we’ll go straight to Cheltenham now. I think it was a very good performance to jump out and make all. I’m very happy with her. She’s taken to jumping and she’s brave.”

Paddy Power made Princess Zoe a 16/1 shot (from 33/1) for the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Another brace for the champ

WILLIE Mullins kept up his irresistible run of form when saddling a double on the card and Diverge booked his ticket to Cheltenham with an impressive victory in the opener.

The Frankel gelding went to the front before the fourth in the two-mile maiden hurdle and stretched clear two from home, under Paul Townend, to post a 23-length success over Mon Coeur.

“He did it well and improved a lot from the last day,” said Mullins of the Chris Jones-owned gelding. “We changed the tactics as he was very free in Leopardstown. I said to Paul ‘don’t be fighting him too much’.

“He has entries at Cheltenham and we’d probably be looking more to the Supreme. Any horse that wins his maiden by 23 lengths on his second run has to.”

Second string

It was the apparent second string that brought up the double later on the card when Haxo landed the two-and-a-half mile maiden hurdle.

Sir Argus went to post a 4/11 shot but was let down by his jumping and was collared on the run-in by his stablemate after a blunder at the last.

The Danny Mullins-ridden gelding went on to score by a length at odds of 7/2 in the colours of the Noel Fehily Racing Syndicate.

“For jumping Haxo deserved to win that and that’s what won it for him in the end,” said the winning trainer. “He’s a second season novice and jumped really well. He’s a nice type and he looks like a real chaser in the making.”

Progressive Fureur strikes again

SA Fureur recorded back-to-back victories at the course when running out a gutsy victor in the Bar One Racing Rated Novice Hurdle.

Rob James took the mount on the 9/4 favourite and produced the Gordon Elliott-trained gelding to lead before the last. The Walk In The Park gelding found plenty in the closing stages to repel the challenge of La Malmason by half a length.

James, in the colours of Caldwell Construction, said: “He was just a bit in my hands the whole way but he picked up well and he had loads left. He was just galloping out to the line and the other horse was never getting past.

“He’s only a big baby and he’ll probably be a better horse next year again. He’s improving the whole time.”

Strong run

In-form trainer Gavin Cromwell had to settle for second with La Malmason but he had struck earlier on the card in the four-year-old handicap hurdle with Theonewedreamof.

The French Navy filly went to post an 11/1 shot in the two-miler and came with a strong run to lead before the last under Luke Dempsey, and record a two-and-a-half-length win over Ludus.

Cromwell trains the winner for the Golfcrest Syndicate and he said: “She’s a gutsy little filly. I thought she had a place chance and I’m delighted with that. I’m not sure where we go from here but we’ll find another handicap for her somewhere.”

Gamble landed with Ishan

THE Sam Curling-trained Ishan left his previous form well behind when claiming the concluding three-mile handicap hurdle on the card. Having been as big as 25/1 in the morning, the French-bred gelding went to post a 6/1 shot having been backed in as short as 11/4.

Phillip Enright led two from home on the five-year-old and he stayed on well in the closing stages to record a two-and-a-quarter length win over Killinure Lass.

“He had a good enough run in Tramore (when sixth) but he got stuck in the ground in Limerick (when pulled up), Phillip said he just never went a yard,” said Curling, who trains the winner for Pius Collins. He’s been coming along the whole time. That was a bad race, I’d imagine.

“He’s a grand horse and he’ll jump a fence too in time. He was ready to run in a point-to-point but we thought he probably wasn’t quite up to a four-year-old point-to-point so we said we’d go hurdling with him. He’s taken a bit of time to come but he’s coming now. We’ll find something similar, he’s no world beater.”

Ground it out

American Money made a winning start in handicap company in the preceding two-and-a-half mile contest. The Westerner gelding, trained by Eddie and Patrick Harty, was produced by Kieran Buckley to lead before the last and beat Glenabo Bridge by a length.

Harty senior said of the 12/1 winner: “He has improved from run to run and it was a nice run here the last day (when sixth). He just crept into 0-95 but won’t the next time. He ground it out and that’s typical Westerner, the tougher the conditions the better they seem to go.

“He’s a nice horse but we have no great plans for him. We’ll have to look at the next division up now and he’s a nice fun horse. He’ll make a nice chaser in time and he will improve.

“He was bred by a very good friend of mine, Bobby Guiry, who died last year so it’s nice to keep the legacy going.”