All the hot views as Apple's Jade bids to leave Benie and Midnight in the shade
Irish Stallion Farms EBF Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle | (Grade 1) | 4yo+ | RTE 2/ATR
They fought out a memorable finish to the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last month and now Benie Des Dieux, Midnight Tour and Apple's Jade – the first three home in that Grade 1 event – renew rivalry on the final day of the Punchestown festival.
The trio were separated by only one and a half lengths at Cheltenham, where Benie Des Dieux, successfully reverting from fences, prevailed by half a length over Midnight Tour, with Apple's Jade a length back in third
Seven-time Grade 1 winner Apple's Jade remains the highest-rated of the trio and and the Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old will be attempting to win the event for the second consecutive year, having trounced her rivals by 14 lengths 12 months ago.
Eddie O'Leary, spokesman for owners Gigginstown House Stud, said: "She just wasn't right after Cheltenham. I'm not sure she was quite in season, but she certainly wasn't herself and Gordon said she was very quiet in herself afterwards.
"She's working an awful lot better now and, while she isn't pulling up any trees, seems in very good form. Going right-handed should suit her and hopefully we can turn the form around with Benie Des Dieux and put a smile on our faces for the end of the season."
After three wins over fences, Benie Des Dieux showed her versatility by landing the Cheltenham prize under Ruby Walsh.
Paul Townend is on duty here and Willie Mullins, who has sent out four of the last five winners of the race, including dual winner Annie Power, whose name the race carries, said: "Benie Des Dieux came out of Cheltenham well and we're hoping she can do what she did when winning there last time."
Benie Des Dieux is one of seven runners in the race for Mullins.
Midnight Tour represents Alan King, who enjoyed Grade 1 success at the meeting in 2008 when Blazing Bailey won the Stayers' Hurdle.
"Our mare has to turn form Cheltenham around with Benie Des Dieux and, of course, Apple's Jade, who ran third, is in there again, so it will be tough," said King.
"But we've booked Davy Russell and he's the man of the moment, so fingers crossed."
Jer's Girl, fifth behind Benie Des Dieux at Cheltenham, represents Gavin Cromwell, who said: "She's in good nick but looks up against it on form and we'll be happy if she gets placed."
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