Things We Learned » Dieux was dynamite

Dieux was dynamite

Benie Des Dieux was dynamite again on Thursday at Gowran Park.  She has still never been beaten when she has completed since she joined Willie Mullins.

Susannah Ricci’s mare has won over fences and over hurdles, she has won over two miles, over two and a half miles, over three miles.  She has won going left and going right, on undulating tracks and on flat tracks, on yielding ground and on heavy ground.  Her only blip was when she fell at the final flight in the 2019 Mares’ Hurdle when she had the race in the bag.

So Apple’s Jade under-performed in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle on Thursday, it was left to Penhill to do the chasing, and Benie Des Dieux beat her stable companion by 21 lengths, exactly the same distance as the distance by which Apple’s Jade beat him at Leopardstown in the Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle.  But it was also the style of the winner’s performance, the manner in which she picked up, the ease with which she came clear.

And there was the reaction.  Paul Townend’s reaction, Willie Mullins synopsis: she could be his best mare ever.  Think Annie Power, think Quevega.  That’s some accolade.

The other significant aspect of the post-match reaction was the fact that the champion trainer didn’t rule out the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, so hold those Mares’ Hurdle bets.  A tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle would be fascinating.  Paisley Park giving her 7lb.  That would be some race.

City plans

Speaking of the Stayers’ Hurdle, it wasn’t hugely surprising when Martin Brassil announced during the week that that race would be City Island’s Cheltenham Festival target.  

Sean and Bernardine Mulryan’s horse was late enough making his chasing debut, in the beginners’ chase that Melon won at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, where things didn’t go to plan.  He made a mistake at the second fence that seemed to scare him, he didn’t jump fluently thereafter, and he made a bad mistake at the second last fence, after which Mark Walsh pulled him up.

The Court Cave gelding was better two weeks ago in the Grade 3 Killiney Chase at Punchestown, but he still didn’t attack his fences with the requisite verve, and he would have finished only third had Speak Easy not fallen at the final fence, over 20 lengths behind Carefully Selected. 

You could have persevered, you could have gone for the two-mile-five-furlong beginners’ chase at Fairyhouse today, or for the Grade 3 three-mile chase at Naas tomorrow, and tried to make your way to the JLT Chase or the RSA Chase.  But that would have been a lot of racing over fences in a short space of time.  The decision to revert to hurdles is a sensible one.  City Island is still a young horse, he has only just turned seven.  Retain his novice status over fences for next season.

And he could be a player in the Stayers’ Hurdle all right.  There is precedent.  Big Buck’s returned from a truncated chasing career to win the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2009, and he won three more.  City Island has over a stone to find on official ratings to get up to Paisley Park’s level, but he is a young and talented horse with lots of potential.  He has only run five times over hurdles. 

He won a strong renewal of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, battling on well up the hill to get the better of a big talent in Champ and, by Court Cave, from the family of Morley Street and Granville Again with siblings who have won three-mile chases, he could be even better over further. 

Real deal

Real Steel looked good in winning the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles on Thursday.  He travelled well through his race, his jumping was good and, while Footpad probably under-performed, Real Steel picked up impressively to come away from his stable companion between the last two fences.

This race – formerly the Kinloch Brae Chase – has a rich history, and it has been won in the recent past by Don Cossack and Sizing John, so it was understandable that Real Steel’s odds for the Ryanair Chase were more or less halved.  However, the Loup Breton gelding has been well beaten on both his runs at Cheltenham, and he may still be better going right than going left.  He has never won on a left-handed track, and his record going right over fences reads 1121141.  Winner of the EMS Copiers Novices’ Handicap Chase at last year’s Punchestown Festival, it may be that he is a horse who is worth keeping in mind for Punchestown again this year.

Thyestes take 

The most recent piece of evidence suggests that the Goffs Thyestes Chase is still a class horse’s race these days.  Thursday’s winner Total Recall is a Ladbrokes Trophy winner.  Driven through the fog to victory by Danny Mullins, Willie Mullins’ horse was the fifth winner in the last seven years to carry 11st 4lb or more.  

The third and fourth horses, Minella Fair and Ex Patriot, may both be of interest going forward.  Minella Fair jumped his fences as well as he has ever jumped his fences and, while he couldn’t quicken from the third last fence, he kept on well to finish third.  He could be even better over further.  Still a novice, Noel Meade’s horse could be a horse who is worth keeping in mind for Irish Grand National.  

You couldn’t say that Ex Patriot didn’t stay the three-mile trip, but he may still be better over slightly shorter. Ellmarie Holden’s horse still looks progressive and, fourth in the 2017 Triumph Hurdle and a good fourth in a competitive handicap at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day this year, he could be a horse for the Plate at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

© The Irish Field, 25th January 2020