Benie Des Dieux confirmed her superiority over Apple’s Jade in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.
Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old had done most of her racing over fences in Ireland before the Cheltenham Festival, when it was largely considered that Apple’s Jade was below her best.
Gordon Elliott’s Apple’s Jade was sent off the 5-6 favourite to get her revenge and made an early bid for home under Jack Kennedy.
But she had no answer to the 3-1 second-favourite, who went sweeping by under Paul Townend to show there was no fluke about the Cheltenham result.
Augusta Kate, a stablemate of the winner, came from nearly last down the back straight to pass Apple’s Jade after the last.
Townend said: “Robbie (Power) set a good gallop (on Forge Meadow) and Jack took it off him (on Apple’s Jade). He kept it up but Benie Des Dieux came alive for me then, over the third last and the second last and she stays well as well, so she’s a very good mare.
“It’s a long time since I sat on her over fences (December 2016), but she’s proven that Cheltenham was no fluke now.
“She is very versatile, she jumps a fence so well, who knows (whether she’ll go back chasing) but wherever she goes, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”
Mullins said: “She’s as good as I thought she was. My aim all year was to win the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and hopefully come back here and she has done both things properly. She’s a really good mare.
“At home, I thought after her first win she had the ability of Douvan, I wondered was she a female version of Douvan.
“I want to see what there is over fences for her, are there races for her over fences that I want to go for? I imagine that’s her finished for the season.
“We could be tempted by France just as I said that – probably not.”