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Expert analysis as Princess Zoe aims for Group 1 double in Prix Royal-Oak

2.50 Longchamp
Prix Royal-Oak (Group 1) | 3yo+ | 1m7½f | Sky

Recent history would suggest it takes an exceptional stayer to win the Prix Royal-Oak in the same season as the Prix du Cadran.

The feat is akin to the Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup double but with one, if not both, legs run on energy-sapping autumn ground. 

In the 20 runnings this century, 14 Cadran winners have attempted the double and only three times have they emerged successful. Gentoo won both races a decade ago and the classy Westerner took the runnings in 2003 and 2004.

Princess Zoe may have history to overcome but she has already broken several norms, emerging as a genuine Group 1 stayer since joining Tony Mullins from Germany. 

Three-year-olds have emerged as a major thorn in the side of Cadran winners turning out again in the Royal-Oak, with Vazirabad, Ice Breeze and Technician all triumphing in the last five seasons.

Subjectivist did not fire in the St Leger and also ran down the field in the Great Voltigeur. Those disappointments came on good ground but were split by a dominant display on much deeper terrain at Goodwood. 

Holdthasigreen is likely to be ridden prominently but Joe Fanning may find he has little competition for the lead and Subjectivist remains open to improvement over this extra furlong and a half. 

The other three-year-old is the Aga Khan's Valia, who won the Group 2 Prix Chaudenay with relative ease and possesses the requisite class to thrive over middle distances.

The question is whether she is battle-hardened but if the race is run at a comfortable pace before becoming a sprint, Valia's turn of foot will be hard to live with.

Of the others, Get Shirty would be among the favourites were it not for a below-par effort last time and his form with Melbourne Cup hopeful Ashrun makes him far from a forlorn hope. 

'The only thing we're anxious about is the 23-day turnabout'
With 18-year-old Joey Sheridan serving the suspension he picked up from the Longchamp stewards in the Prix du Cadran, Tony Mullins has turned to Seamie Heffernan to ride Princess Zoe.

"Frustratingly Joey got suspended here on what I call a stupid rule, namely the doubling for a Group 1," said Mullins. "It's idiotic. 

"Seamie came and rode her work with Joey riding upsides and so he knows all about her. Everything has gone to plan, she ate up so we decided to travel." 

Stamina will certainly come into play but Mullins has already walked the track and feels conditions are less testing than for the Cadran.

"I was out there this morning and I know there's rain to come tomorrow but it's certainly not as soft as the Arc meeting. If the rain comes that might change. 

"Our attitude to very soft ground is that it inconveniences the others, not us. 

"This is the most unbelievable mare and she can be ridden handy or out the back. We've never made it with her but I’m sure she can because she’s done it plenty of times in her work at home."

While Mullins is full of respect for the opposition he believes if Princess Zoe reproduces her run in the Cadran, she will take a lot of beating.

"The ground is right, we don't see any problem with riding tactics and we couldn't be happier," the trainer added. "The only thing we're anxious about is the 23-day turnaround. If that takes its toll we'll get beat and if it doesn't we won't."

What they say
Bruno Audoin, trainer of Holdthasigreen
He ran well last time without having his usual fight but he has had a good preparation and will prefer heavy ground. Princess Zoe looks the one to beat and  the younger ones might have the legs on him but I hope he can finish in the money. Most of all the deeper ground will help because he lacks a bit of pace on a sounder surface.

Mark Johnston, trainer of Subjectivist
He’s a very good horse and this is the ideal opportunity for him. Under current circumstances it’s so difficult coming to France that we wouldn’t be taking him if it wasn’t the best opportunity and we wouldn’t be running him in a Group 1 if we we didn’t think he was in great form. Everything’s right for him and I think he’s got a great chance. 

Alain de Royer-Dupre, trainer of Valia
She is very well but now she is up against older horses for the first time and the ground will be very testing. She has already won on very soft but heavy remains a question. She is still progressing and is in better form than before the Chaudenay. Next year she will be at a mile and a half but this is the last Group 1 for her this year.

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