Benie delivers for Mullins in OLBG Mares' Hurdle
Last Updated: 13/03/18 5:09pm
Benie Des Dieux provided Willie Mullins with his ninth victory in 11 years in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Irish champion trainer memorably claimed the prize six times with the remarkable Quevega and has since struck gold with Glens Melody - who profited from the final-flight fall of stablemate Annie Power in 2015 - and Vroum Vroum Mag.
Benie Des Dieux was second-best in the market at 9-2, with last year's winner Apple's Jade, a former Mullins inmate but now with Gordon Elliott, the 1-2 favourite.
Apple's Jade was ridden forcefully by Jack Kennedy and looked to be travelling well before the home turn, but she was mastered by relatively unconsidered 33-1 shot Midnight Tour on the run to the final flight.
Ruby Walsh was hard at work in behind aboard Benie Des Dieux, but she responded to his urgings to get up and score by half a length.
Midnight Tour filled the runner-up spot ahead of Apple's Jade in third.
It was a second winner on the day for Mullins and Walsh following the Arkle Trophy success of Footpad.
Owner Rich Ricci, who had seen his hot favourite Getabird beaten in the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle, said: "You're kicked in the first race and then you're on top of the world in the fifth. It's an amazing sport, fantastic.
"She's very tough. We've had a hard time getting her to run consistently and we've given her a lot of time between races, so we thought we'd put her back to hurdles and it's paid off today.
"It's so great to have Ruby back. He is different gravy. You saw that there, he's sensational."
Walsh told said: "We always thought she was a really good mare. She got fractionally outpaced down the hill, but going down the hill I was thinking the others are starting to stop. She stuck her head down and rallied really well.
"She's as tough as boots. She's a very good mare. She's probably a better chaser, but we'll take this.
"It's wonderful and I'm so thankful to everyone."
Mullins said: "We decided to come for this race because there's no mares' chase. What else could she have run in? The Ryanair maybe, but this was the only race worth sending her back over hurdles for.
"After she'd won her first race for us we did a couple of pieces of work and I texted Rich to say she was like 'Benie Des Douvan' - that was the vibe she was giving us. I tried to keep that under wraps, though!
"When she won last time I told David (Mullins) to not leave Cheltenham behind, win if you can but don't give her a hard race, and that's what he did.
"Ruby was brilliant on her but she only just got home. She really needs a trip and will go way back up in trip and back over fences now.
"She really could be anything, I think a lot of her."
Midnight Tour's trainer, Alan King, said: "She's run a blinder. I had a feeling she would. Coming here I thought she might be running on into third or fourth.
"Turning in I thought she might win, but she's just been run out of it."