Huge highs and big lows: the careers of Faugheen, Douvan and Benie Des Dieux
They have been indelible links in the chain of jump racing's story over the last decade. Here we celebrate the major moments in the careers of three Willie Mullins-trained superstars Faugheen, Douvan and Benie Des Dieux, all of whom carried the pink silks of Susannah and Rich Ricci.
2016 BHP Irish Champion Hurdle, Leopardstown
High point: It may seem odd to look anywhere other than his Champion Hurdle win at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival but when Faugheen rolled into Leopardstown he had a score to settle with Nichols Canyon, who had ended his unbeaten streak in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown the previous November.
The betting suggested that revenge was expected over his stable mate but no amount of 30-100 offered by the layers could have prepared us for the 15 length drubbing Faugheen handed out to his old rival.
Mullins said of the display: "When Ruby asked him Faugheen quickened up well, not once but twice. He really opened up between the last two hurdles and I couldn't be happier with his performance. It was electrifying."
Low point: Seeing Faugheen pulled up in the Ryanair Hurdle at the 2017 Christmas meeting at Lepardstown, after which we wondered if we'd see him race again.
2016 Racing Post Arkle Trophy, Cheltenham
High point: Controlled aggression was always the phrase that came to mind when Douvan was at his best and the way that Ruby Walsh gradually wound the rack on his rivals through under four minutes of a fast-run Arkle made for electric viewing.
He finished seven lengths to the good over a horse that would win a Gold Cup at Cheltenham 12 months later while the pressure he exerted on other challengers such as Vaniteux took an inevitable toll.
He would go on to win by even further at Punchestown the following month, while Walsh said in the aftermath of his Arkle display: "He makes jumping fences feel like jumping hurdles. To me he settled the race in the air - if there was going to be a race. He just has a huge amount of natural ability."
Low point: Douvan twice failed to figure in the Champion Chase but there can be no doubt that his defeat at odds of 2-9 in 2017 when pulling muscles early in the race ranked as a huge disappointment for all involved.
Benie Des Dieux
2019 Grande Course de Haies, Auteuil
High point: Willie Mullins has put the saddle on some tremendous mares during his career and Benie Des Dieux deserves to be mentioned right up there with Quevega and Annie Power.
She did most of her racing in sex-restricted races and when Mullins did allow her to take her chance in open company it was another mare, the darling of Auteuil, De Bon Coeur, that stood in her way.
Turfistes would not hear of defeat for De Bon Coeur, who had only been defeated twice in 15 previous starts with all but one of those successes coming on the Paris track.
Paul Townend had only been in the job as stable number one for three weeks and he could not have heralded the smooth passing of the torch from Walsh in any finer fashion than the confident way he took Benie Des Dieux across to the outer rail jumping two out, eyeballing Kevin Nabet and De Bon Coeur before sweeping clear.
Summing up the effort – which came just two weeks after running against mares-only at Punchestown – Mullins said: "If you have championship horses you have to run them in the championship races. To me, you have to take your chances."
Low point: Winning the Grande Course was particularly sweet as Benie Des Dieux had come down at the last with a second Cheltenham Mares' Hurdle at her mercy in March.
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