Willie Mullins told Racing TV on Thursday he believes Benie Des Dieux “could be better” than Annie Power following her impressive victory in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle and is not ruling out a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The nine-year-old demolished her rivals in the Grade Two contest at Gowran Park on her seasonal debut on Thursday, in which Apple’s Jade was a bitter disappointment.
Mullins was full of praise for his superstar mare - who would be unbeaten in nine starts since joining the serial Irish champion trainer but for a fall at the final flight in the Mares’ Hurdle last year – afterwards.
Willie Mullins reflects on Benie Des Dieux's victory at Gowran Park
When asked by Racing TV’s Gary O’Brien if he believes Benie Des Dieux could be as good as Annie Power – a winner of five Grade Ones including the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – he said:
“I think she could be better. I think people lost faith and confidence in her when she fell at Cheltenham but to me, she’s a serious, serious talent. She went to France last year and took on their best mare (De Bon Coeur) in the French Champion Hurdle and beat her.”
Benie Des Dieux is now a best-priced even-money favourite for the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but the Closutton handler will now give serious consideration to a crack at the Stayers' Hurdle which she is a general 6-1 for.
He said: “When I saw her coming up the straight today, I thought that had stayers’ written all over it. I’ll have to have a chat to Rich (Ricci, owner).
“The ground will be right for her in the Mares’ Hurdle as it’s always softer ground on the first couple of days of the Festival and the ground will be drying out by the Thursday.
“I will certainly be having a look at the other race (Stayers’ Hurdle).”
Watch a full replay of the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle
Should all go well at Cheltenham, Benie Des Dieux is likely to head to the Punchestown Festival before running in France again.
“That’s the usual routine, hopefully she stays right,” Mullins said. The Galmoy Hurdle was billed as a match between the two top-class mares, with Apple’s Jade having got back to form with a win at Leopardstown last time out.
However, after jumping the third-last Gordon Elliott’s charge began to struggle and Davy Russell pulled her up.
When the field emerged from the fog running to the second-last, Benie Des Dieux was still on the bridle under Paul Townend and she was unextended to win by 21 lengths as the even-money favourite.
It was a one-two-three for Mullins, as Penhill took second and Killultagh Vic third. Death Duty, having his first outing for 758 days, was fourth. Reflecting on the race, Mullins said:
"Obviously Apple's Jade didn't fire on the day, but I thought my mare put in as good a performance as she ever did in her life.
"Paul couldn't believe how well she was going at the second-last and he said the race was over in a couple of strides.
"She's a three-mile mare rather than a two-mile mare. She could be better than any mare I've trained.”
He added: "I did a bit of work with her about 10 days ago and we thought she was in tip-top order.
"The Galmoy wasn't on the agenda, but we said we'd enter without committing her. She was showing us all the right signs and it was a home game for us, so we said we'd let her take her chance."
Paul Townend was overjoyed with Benie Des Dieux at Gowran Park
Winning-rider Paul Townend was equally impressed with Benie Des Dieux. He said: "She's all class, I was in my comfort zone everywhere and I was in front a mile too soon, but I didn't want to disappoint her.
"What impressed me was how quickly she put it to bed when we straightened up.
"I never got to ride Annie Power, so she'd be the best mare I've ridden."
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