Finian Maguire delivered Princess Zoe with a perfectly-timed challenge to win the Connacht Hotel (Q.R.) Handicap, the feature event on the opening day of the Galway Festival.
Trained by Tony Mullins, Princess Zoe won the Ladies Derby at the Curragh on her most recent start and she again emerged best in a thoroughly competitive event over two miles and a furlong.
Sharjah, second in the Champion Hurdle and a three-times Grade One scorer over obstacles, was well fancied for the combination of Willie and Patrick Mullins, being sent off the 5-2 favourite.
He was settled towards the rear of the field as A Wave Of The Sea set the early gallop and there were plenty still in with a chance as the race began in earnest with a couple of furlongs to run.
Sharjah tried to make his run down the outside but could not pick up as Maguire waited for a gap before Princess Zoe fairly sprinted through to collar Run For Mary for the prize. Golden Spear was third with Zenon fourth.
The five-year-old was winning for the second time in three starts for Mullins since switching from Germany earlier in the year and she was also a landmark winner for Maguire, who has now lost his claim.
Mullins said: “Bernard Cullinane found her for us in Germany, but when I saw where she was for sale, with the flights being so difficult, I decided not to go on that journey and very luckily I didn’t go, because I know if I went I wouldn’t have bought her.
“When she arrived home she had quite crooked legs and I know if I went to Germany, I wouldn’t have bought her. Thankfully I bought her on the phone and when she arrived, I couldn’t do anything about it. But the first day I worked her, I knew we were OK.
“I’ve known Paddy (Kehoe, owner) (for) 40 years and we’ve had great luck together. The few we’ve bought over the years, nearly every one won.
“We are now thinking of the English Cesarewitch and we might also think about a bit of black type as she has a good pedigree. She is entered on Saturday and is a good filly and I want to go right by her.
“Paddy already has her backed for the mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham, so I suppose she’ll be schooled.
“To win a feature race at Galway is like a Cheltenham winner to me, or having one at Royal Ascot. With the type of horse I have, it is the best I can aspire to win and we have won a few features over the years.”