Compensation for Benie Des Dieux as she wins her second Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown

Benie Des Dieux (Paul Townend) winning the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown today. Credit: David Betts.

Benie Des Dieux gained some compensation for her final flight fall at Cheltenham when she had the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at her mercy, when taking her second Grade 1 The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle over 2m 4 furlongs at Punchestown on Saturday, as an all-time record crowd on an given day of 37,206 went through the turnstiles.

The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old mare, ridden by Paul Townend and was sent off the 2/5 favourite, stalked her stable companion and nearest market rival, Stormy Ireland (7/2), until taking the lead approaching the last flight before taking a nine-and-a-half-length success, with Good Thyne Tara (8/1) in third completing a Willie Mullins clean sweep.

Regular Punchestown visitor Nicky Henderson trained his third winner of the week when the French-bred Fusil Raffles justified 13/8 favouritism to take the Grade 1 AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle over 2 miles at 4.15pm. The Seven Barrows inmate had two-and-three-quarter-lengths to spare over Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies with French Maid from the Willie Mullins yard finishing in third.

The winner, who missed both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals due to an injury picked up at Kempton, stayed on strongly in the run to the line to take a Grade 1 on just his fourth career start.

The Enda Bolger-trained Blue Templar (11/4), winner of the Ladies Cup earlier in the week, made a quick successful reappearance by winning the Dooley Insurance Group Cross Country Steeplechase, the opening race of the final day of Peerless Punchestown 2019.

Ridden by Ray Barron, as he was on Tuesday, the eight-year-old led home his stable companion, also in the JP McManus ownership, Josies Orders (5/2f), defeating his half-brother by three-quarters-of-a-length, with the gallant Ballinasilla (12/1) a further four-and-a-half-lengths back in third.

Declan Queally’s 11/1 shot Cloudy Morning was an 18 length winner of the Boylesports Handicap Steeplechase under the talented seven-pound claimer Seán O’Keffee. The Wexford handler’s 11 year-old was completing a hat-trick of wins having already tasted success twice at Wexford during April.

Regal Encore (12/1), trained in England by Anthony Honeyball for JP McManus, was second, four-and-a-half-lengths clear of Wounded Warrior (25/1) who was in the vanguard for most of the 3m 7 furlong contest.

Top-weight Mr Adjudicator (20/1) took the Ballymore Handicap Hurdle for father and son team, Willie and Patrick Mullins, as the trainer achieved a 1-2-3-4 in the contest. Contingency (25/1) was second, Dorrells Pierji (11/1) third with Stratum (12/1) taking fourth place.

Henry de Bromhead and Davy Russell took the Palmerstown House Pat Taffee Handicap Steeplechase with Heron Heights (12/1) while the festival finale, The K Club Resort (Pro/Am) Flat Race over 2 miles, went to Ard Abhainn(13/2), trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Lisa O’Neill.

Today’s attendance: 37,206 – an all-time record on any given day of the Festival.
2018 attendance: 35,948.

2019 total attendance: 126,840.
2018 total attendance: 127,489.

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