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Ruby Walsh: Benie Des Dieux is Willie Mullins’ best chance at the Cheltenham Festival

By Ruby Walsh
Tue 25 Feb 2020

Watch and read what the Racing TV ambassador has to say about many of the squad as Closutton heading to Cheltenham

This year is unusual for me. Normally I'd be riding many of Willie Mullins' leading Cheltenham Festival but this time will be different and instead I'll just be talking about them.

Here are my thoughts on a selection of Willie's runners.

AL BOUM PHOTO

Race: Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup

The winner of last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was very good there and this year’s race is quite similar I think – you can add in Santini and Delta Work but the rest are the same horses.

He has had a very similar preparation this year, going to Tramore and winning again like he did last year.

I know Paul Townend really likes him, he showed last year that he stays and, to me, he’s a worthy favourite.

ALLAHO

Race: RSA Insurance Novices' Chase

He’s a strong-staying, big-jumping horse and it looks like he’ll contest the RSA. He was not match for Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett at last year’s Festival and he’ll have to overcome Champ and Minella Indo this time.

ASTERION FORLONGE

Race: Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle

I think he’ll run in the Supreme Novices’. I was lucky enough to win six of them, and five of them were on really strong stayers.

To me, this fella ticks the boxes you need to win a Supreme. If I was Paul Townend, I’d be hoping Willie Mullins runs him in the Supreme because I’d want to be on his back.

BENIE DES DIEUX

Race: Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle

 Walsh and Benie Des Dieux after winning at Cheltenham in 2018
Walsh and Benie Des Dieux after winning at Cheltenham in 2018

She was very unlucky in the Mares’ Hurdle last year when she clipped the top bar of the final hurdle and fell over.

She was brilliant in the Galmoy Hurdle on her only start this year and I think she’ll run in the Mares’ Hurdle. I think she’ll be very hard to beat. For me, she’s probably Willie’s best chance of the week.

CAREFULLY SELECTED

Race: National Hunt Chase

He’s favourite for the National Hunt Chase and he’s won all his chase starts this year. His jumping has been a bit in-and-out but I’m sure Patrick Mullins can’t wait to ride him at Cheltenham.

CASH BACK

Race: Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase

He’s quite a difficult ride and a strong gallop suits him. He was on the pace with Notebook in the Irish Arkle the whole way and he’ll most definitely be on the pace in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival as well.

We saw at Leopardstown that he stays well and, with that run under his belt and that bit more experience, I think he could turn the form with Notebook. That will give him a great chance in the Arkle.

CILAOS EMERY

Race: Unibet Champion Hurdle

 Cilaos Emery, purple silks, has been switched back to hurdles
Cilaos Emery, purple silks, has been switched back to hurdles

I suppose he had been considered a chaser for most of the season but connections decided to have a crack at the Red Mills Hurdle and he was good in beating Darasso. The Champion Hurdle will be a whole new ball game but he’s a high-class horse.

COLREEVY

Race: Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle

She was no match for Minella Melody at Fairyhouse on her last start but I’m sure she’ll contest the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle on the Thursday. She’s a stout stayer and doesn’t go without her chance.

EASY GAME

Race: Marsh Novices' Chase

He was second to Faugheen in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown and he’ll probably run in the Marsh Novices’ Chase. He’s a light, athletic type but he has a squeak in what looks an open race.

FAUGHEEN

Race: Undecided

 Faugheen is still going strong at 12 years of age (Focusonracing)
Faugheen is still going strong at 12 years of age (Focusonracing)

Whether he runs in Cheltenham or not is still to be decided but he has been exceptional this year, winning all three of his chase starts including a Grade One in Limerick and a brilliant Grade One in Leopardstown on his last start.

But who knows whether he’ll be at the Cheltenham Festival or not; I’m sure Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci will discuss that in the near-future.

FRANCO DE PORT

Race: One of the handicaps

He hasn’t had that many runs for us and he’s a second-season novice coming from France, but I think he’ll be worth following in whatever handicap he turns up in at the Festival.

MONKFISH

Race: Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

The current favourite for the Albert Bartlett, his form got a great boost lately when Run Wild Fred won at Punchestown. He was a bit disappointing on his first start at Fairyhouse but he’s done nothing wrong since. He’s a good jumper and seems to stay really well. The Albert Bartlett is a hard race to win, but this guy has as good a chance as Willie Mullins has ever had in it.

STORMY IRELAND

Race: Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle

She’s a cracking little mare, a front-runner who wears her heart on her sleeve.

She was no match last year for Roksana, and to be honest wasn’t going to be a match for Benie Des Dieux either. She’ll run in the Mares’ Hurdle, but she’ll have to improve a bit - and where’s she going to find it from to beat Benie Des Dieux? I don’t know.

THE BIG GETAWAY

Race: Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

The very impressive winner of a maiden hurdle at Naas on his last start, he was a bit unlucky at Leopardstown behind Cobbler’s Way. He’ll obviously have to take on Envoi Allen in the Ballymore but Patrick Mullins loves this horse.

 Un De Sceaux is "brilliant little horse for the yard"
Un De Sceaux is "brilliant little horse for the yard"

UN DE SCEAUX

Race: Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

He’s a brilliant little horse for the yard and connections and this is probably his swansong at the Cheltenham Festival. Whether he’ll run in the Champion Chase or the Ryanair who knows, but he’ll give a good account wherever he goes.

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