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Mullins forced to rule Benie Des Dieux out of Cheltenham

Benie Des Dieux has been ruled out of next month’s Cheltenham Festival by trainer Willie Mullins.

Winner of the Mares’ Hurdle at the showpiece meeting in 2018, the 10-year-old fell at the final flight when seemingly set to successfully defend her crown in the same race 12 months later.

After going on to win the French Champion Hurdle in 2019, Benie Des Dieux was the hot favourite for last year’s Mares’ Hurdle, but came off second best in an epic battle with Honeysuckle and has not been seen in competitive action since.

Mullins confirmed earlier this season that his star mare would likely head straight to Cheltenham this term, either for the Mares’ Hurdle once more or potentially the inaugural Mares’ Chase.

Ruby Walsh celebrates with Benie Des Dieux at Cheltenham in 2018
Ruby Walsh celebrates with Benie Des Dieux at Cheltenham in 2018 (Tim Goode/PA)

However, the winning-most trainer in Festival history announced in a statement on his website on Tuesday evening that Benie Des Dieux would miss the Festival entirely.

Mullins said: “Benie Des Dieux hasn’t been pleasing me in our quest to get her to Cheltenham and regrettably we have had to make the decision to withdraw her from the Festival.

“I’ll try to get her to make Punchestown, but we’ll have to see how things go.

“It’s very disappointing for everyone as we thought she would make it to Cheltenham, but unfortunately time just ran out.”