Benie Bids to Go Back to Back as Punchestown Festival Bids Adieu to The Irish National Hunt Season
The 2019 Punchestown Festival draws to a close on Saturday afternoon with another eight race card and two more Grade 1 races down for decision.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins will be hoping to end the season with a flourish and win back to back renewals of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle with Benie Des Dieux.
Last year's winner was a faller at the Cheltenham Festival but is reported to be in good form following that mishap as she faces stable companions Good Thyne Tara and Stormy Ireland. The five-runner field is completed by Gordon Elliott's Tintangle and the Nicky Henderson-trained With Descretion.
"Benie Des Dieux seems fine after her Cheltenham fall and the race on Saturday looks a good opportunity for her. We've been happy with her in recent weeks but she has had a quiet season because of the ground. Punchestown have done a fantastic job all week in producing perfect ground for National Hunt horses so we are looking forward to getting her out again. It would be a lovely way to finish the season for Rich Ricci too," said Patrick Mullins
"The trip and the track will suit Stormy Ireland and Good Thyne Tara and hopefully they will run well in this black-type race."
Fakir D'oudairies aims to end his juvenile season with Grade 1 success in the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle for Joseph O'Brien and leading owner JP McManus.
Fakir D'oudairies was runner-up to Pentland Hills at Aintree having finished fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle against older rivals at the Cheltenham Festival.
Nicky Henderson's Adonis Hurdle winner Fusil Raffles was forced to miss Cheltenham through injury but adds real depth to the final Grade 1 contest of the Irish National Hunt season which also features recent Fairyhouse victor French Made.
Patrick Mullins added: "It's a tough ask for a four-year-old filly to come back so quick after Fairyhouse but French Made has come out of the race in good form and it is a nice race to run her in. Hopefully she can give a good account of herself."
A full field of 25 runners go to post for the €100,000 Ballymore Handicap Hurdle for which a trio of Grade 1 winners head the weights. Mr Adjudicator, Ivanovich Gorbatov and 2014 Champion Hurlde winner Jezki all take their chance for the richest prize on the afternoon.
Racing concludes with 30th running of the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund Charity Race. The first race on AES Festival Family Day is due off at 2.35pm.