Pat Keane: Please Willie, run Benie Des Dieux in the Stayers’

PLEASE, please Willie run Benie Des Dieux in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and give us the battle that will light up the festival.

Pat Keane: Please Willie, run Benie Des Dieux in the Stayers’

PLEASE, please Willie run Benie Des Dieux in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and give us the battle that will light up the festival.

If Willie Mullins heads down the brave man’s route with his brilliant mare then she will have to take on the superb Paisley Park and that holds promise of a war of titanic proportions.

We know traditionally the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle are the two big ones at Cheltenham, but I believe neither race will hold a candle to the Stayers’ Hurdle, if Paisley Park and Benie Des Dieux cross swords.

Traditionally as well the Thursday at Cheltenham is regarded as the weakest of the four days, but this tussle would change all of that, at least for 2020.

Mullins is something of a traditionalist and has many times reiterated you a send a horse for the race he/she is most likely to win at the Cheltenham festival.

It is a policy which has served him well over many years and the old adage has it you should never change a winning team.

We know, we know, but there are occasions when shooting for the stars is the way to go and that time has arrived for Benie Des Dieux and her remarkable trainer.

Trying to lower Paisley Park’s colours would be a gargantuan task, but surely it is a challenge worth taking on, particularly with a quality mare, who will be in receipt of 7lbs.

Paisley Park has very much become the people’s horse, for various reasons, but none more so than the fact he is owned by Andrew Gemmell.

This man has been blind from birth and most of us could not even begin to understand the world in which he lives.

He comes across as an extraordinary individual, with a terrific passion and love for life. To see how much enjoyment he gets from Paisley Park, and to listen to him being interviewed on television, can be so uplifting.

A man in his late 60s, we know he loves sport, has travelled the world to sporting events, and, as well as horse racing, obviously, likes his cricket and, for his sins, West Ham United!

Paisley Park, of course, has a huge Irish connection. He is trained by Emma Lavelle, who is married to Tipperary-born former jockey, Barry Fenton.

I only ever met Lavelle once, when on a Cheltenham preview panel with her, and she came across as a pleasant young lady.

Then there’s Paisley Park’s regular partner, Aidan Coleman, who is from Innishannon in Co Cork. Coleman is one of those exports that makes you proud to be Irish.

Now 31 years-of-age, his television interviews make for very easy listening. He is always calm and articulate and renews your faith in our education system.

Most importantly of all, however, is that he is a first-class rider and his record on Paisley Park is flawless. He first got to ride the horse in a handicap at Aintree in late October of 2018 and they duly did the business.

Coleman has actually never been beaten on Paisley Park, they are seven from seven, and the eight-year-old has just become a winning machine.

Their best day came at the Cheltenham festival last March when Paisley Park powered clear up the hill to land the Stayers’ Hurdle decisively.

At Cheltenham last Saturday, he emphasised his well-being when typically doing only enough to beat the smart Summerville Boy. A top horse, Paisley Park was this week an even money shot to win the Stayers’ Hurdle for a second time.

So, will Mullins, just this once, ditch the habits of a lifetime and decide Benie Des Dieux should be afforded the opportunity to reveal just how good she really is?

She has the Mares’ Hurdle on the Tuesday as an alternative but, with the possible exception of taking on Honeysuckle, that will amount to no more than a stroll in the park.

Her record for Mullins, since arriving from France, is eight wins in nine races and it should be the full set because she was clear, and in total command, when falling at the final flight in last year’s Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

At Gowran Park eight days ago she made her seasonal debut and it was sensational, as she swept home 21 lengths clear of stable companion, Penhill.

Afterwards, Mullins did not discount the possibility of running in the Stayers’ Hurdle, while emphasising just how important soft ground is to her. That was most encouraging.

If Benie Des Dieux is given the green light to take on Paisley Park could she take him out? Absolutely.

IT is a surprising to see Willie Mullins’ Carefully Selected retaining strong favouritism for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, following a disappointing effort at Naas on Sunday.

This week he was a best priced 4-1, but even shorter with some firms. We wrote about him here recently, after he made an impressive debut over fences at Punchestown, on the basis this might be a star of the future.

But Naas didn’t half put us back in our box. He won alright, by a comfortable enough four lengths, but it was a deeply unsatisfactory performance.

Indeed, it is a matter of conjecture as to whether Carefully Selected would have won had the well-exposed Spyglass Hill, on terms at the time, not fallen at the second last.

The eight-year-old never looked happy at Naas, didn’t travel in the manner we had expected, raced wide for the most part and his jumping, which was rock-solid at Punchestown, was, at best, sloppy.

We are grasping at straws here, but could racing left-handed have been a mitigating factor in what was very much a below-par performance.

It was the first time over jumps, at least on the racecourse, Carefully Selected was asked to go in that direction.

Now he did win his point-to-point left-handed, at Monksgrange, but that was a modest affair and probably isn’t of any great importance.

In any case the Carefully Selected on show at Naas did not inspire confidence and one would be slow to part with any cash for him, if he heads to the festival on the back of that effort!

THE Dublin Racing Festival this weekend promises terrific racing and the Cheltenham picture will be much clearer come tomorrow night.

A couple of horses today to put us in good form are Chacun Pour Soi (Ladbrokes’ Dublin Chase) and Appreciate It (Bumper).

Chacun Pour Soi, with the run under his belt, is fancied to reverse Christmas Leopardstown placings with A Plus Tard and expect Patrick Mullins to strike for home a long way out in the concluding Grade 2.

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