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Tony Mullins still living the dream with Princess Zoe

Tony Mullins is dreaming the fairytale with Princess Zoe can continue in the Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap in Riyadh on Saturday.

The seven-year-old has been a star for the County Kilkenny trainer since her move from Germany that saw her make her debut for him in June 2020.

Originally seen as a prospective hurdler, her rise has been spectacular. The grey progressed through the ranks from handicapper to Group One winner in a matter of months.

“She’s unbelievable for us. We never expected this. Everything happened very quickly. It got condensed because just before her first run we had a lockdown,” said Mullins, whose mare was second to Subjectivist in the Gold Cup in June last year.

“Because we only had a half season and because she was so well handicapped, the races kept coming up that were suiting her and she was improving so fast we were jumping in grade. It was a bit of a whirlwind.

“Ideally, we would have loved a prep run. We did have our own private prep run in Leopardstown earlier this month just to be sure. She hasn’t run for four months. We are just hoping everything is right and all the indications are they are.

“Leopardstown went a little better than expected. It fitted in perfect and has me very excited.

“It’s great to be on the world’s biggest stage. I know how much I love her, but I just can’t believe how popular she is with everybody else.”

Johnny Murtagh feels he has top-weight Sonnyboyliston fit enough to do himself justice on his first run since winning the Irish St Leger in September.

“He seems to handle the grass very well and we’re very happy with the horse. It’s a big ordeal to come and travel this far in a plane. He has been to England a couple of times on the plane, but I’m happy with the way he’s travelled and hope we have a bit of luck at the weekend,” said the County Kildare trainer.

“It is hard to gauge a bit how fit he is, but he’s been in a long time. We gave him a break after the Irish Leger – I think he’s fit, but fit to win a $2million race, I just don’t know.

Sonnyboyliston (right) bids to defy top-weight on his seasonal debut in Riyadh
Sonnyboyliston (right) bids to defy top-weight on his seasonal debut in Riyadh (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s a very competitive race, but he’s only got to give two or three kilos to the other fancied horses in the race. It’s going to be hard to win, but he’s a Classic winner and he deserves a shot at it.

“He’s got an invitation to Dubai so we have him in there. We’re just going to see how this weekend goes, but we have found out he travels well so he could be on his travels for the rest of the year.

“This weekend is the one we’ve been planning for and we’ll build a programme for him after this. He’s more mature, he’s stronger, he looks the finished article.”

Joseph O’Brien’s Baron Samedi is a third Irish-trained challenger, while Charlie and Mark Johnston rely on the admirable Nayef Road. Saeed bin Suroor is double-handed with Dubai Future and Desert Fire with his fellow Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby saddling Siskany.

Bin Suroor struck with Gifts Of Gold 12 months ago, and said of his representatives this year: “They have held their form really well.

“They are super fit and I think the trip will be fine for them. I think if they go steady in the race like last year that both of them have a really good chance.

“Thankfully all my horses have travelled here well. I think Dubai Future’s mile-and-a-half form is really strong, so we have to give him a chance at this trip to see how he goes.”

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