Willie Mullins has revealed that he has his eyes on The Stayers Hurdle for this year’s Cheltenham Festival after Benie Des Diex’s impressive win at Gowran Park. Benie Des Diex beat 2018 Stayers Hurdle winner, Penhill in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park yesterday in what was an incredibly enthralling race.
The battle began with Apple’s Jade taking the lead but surprisingly the mare gradually dropped out as the action progressed. It was during the final flight where we saw Benie Des Diex commanding the advantage and gloriously taking the win. The unexpected floundering performance from Apple’s Jade comes after a striking victory at Leopardstown over Christmas in the Grade 1 Memorial Hurdle. Jockey, Davy Russell, commented on how the mare never seemed to get going the moment she stepped onto the track. There is a chance that Apple’s Jade may not even run in the Stayer’s Hurdle at Cheltenham after this shaky performance but this is still to be confirmed.
Mullins commented on the disappointing performance from Apple’s Jade and praised Benie Des Dieux for putting up ‘as good a performance as she ever did in her life.’ He added that ‘she could be better than any mare I’ve trained. You’d seriously have to look at the Stayers’ Hurdle after that performance.’ In fact, she put up such a superb display that Mullins even commented that she may even have even outperformed Annie Power.
Mullins’ aim is for Benie Des Dieux to take on last year’s Stayers Hurdle champion, Paisley Park. Although Paisley Park is the favourite to take the title for a second year running, Benie Des Dieux’s mesmerising performance at Gowran Park could pose a threat to the Cheltenham champion. Mullins suggested that people may have lost faith in Benie Des Dieux after she fell at the Cheltenham Festival last year in the Mares’ Hurdle. However, yesterday’s display should help revive hopes in the nine-year-old mare.
That being said, Benie Des Dieux has an impressive record behind her. She has placed first in eight out of nine races and last year’s tumble at Cheltenham has been the only mark against her record. Jockey, Paul Townend said ’She’s all class. I was in my comfort zone everywhere. The race just stopped at the top of the hill and I didn’t want to disappoint her. The thing that impressed me most was how quickly she put it to bed when we straightened up.’
It seems that there is going to be some serious competition for The Stayer’s Hurdle this year. Tomorrow is Cheltenham Festival Trials Day and the If The Cap Fits looks to pose a threat to Paisley Park for The Cleeve Hurdle. We are all intrigued to see how the results play out and make our predictions as to who will come out on top at the Cheltenham Festival in March.