There was drama at the finish of the 2019 renewal of the Mares’ Hurdle when reigning champion Benie Des Dieux fell at the final obstacle when leading, allowing Roksana to claim the prize. Both horses are expected to renew rivalry in the 2020 version alongside a strong challenge from other Irish runners.
Benie Des Dieux was unbeaten over hurdles for trainer Willie Mullins prior to that calamity and has won three subsequently starts. She has raced just once this season when impressively beating Penhill at Gowran Park back in January, and this lightly raced mare could be difficult to beat at 8/11 in this contest given a clear round.
Meanwhile, Roksana has failed to win in four outings since last season’s victory. However, her second-placed effort in the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day at this course was an encouraging performance and she should mount another challenge.
Yet the main challenger to Benie Des Dieux may be Irish raider Honeysuckle who is unbeaten over hurdles and is a multiple Grade 1 winner. The Henry de Bromhead trained mare last appeared at the Dublin Festival back in early February and used her weight advantage to beat Darver Star and Petit Mouchoir among others.
The two miles distance that day was probably on the sharp side for the 6-year-old mare and this 2m4f contest may be more to her liking. A price of 6/4 is generally available.
Among the other Irish contestants, Stormy Ireland should once again feature prominently after finishing second last year. The consistent mare has won all three races to date this season but may just lack that extra class to win a Grade 1 level.
That same scenario may apply to stable companion Elfile who was beaten five lengths by Stormy Ireland in December, but the winner that day was receiving three pounds in weight. The 6-year-old mare has since won at Punchestown in heavy ground but she seems to act in any conditions.