Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle are set for a fascinating face-off after both featured among 10 declared for Tuesday’s Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Willie Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux won this Grade One event in 2018 and looked certain to double up last year before dramatically crashing out at the final obstacle.
She bounced back from that to win Grade Ones at Punchestown and Auteuil and she was victorious on her only start to date this term, winning the Galmoy Hurdle in January.
In contrast, Honeysuckle arrives unbeaten in seven starts for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore, most recently triumphing in the Irish Champion Hurdle after also running out a comfortable victor in the Hatton’s Grace earlier in the campaign.
Both had alternate options at the Festival with Benie Des Dieux also engaged in the Stayers’ Hurdle and Honeysuckle in the Champion.
Mullins also has Elfile and Stormy Ireland in the two-and-a-half-mile contest, while De Bromhead has a second string to his bow in Popong.
Last year’s winner Roksana lines up again for Dan Skelton as she looks to return to the winning trail.
Fergal O’Brien is also double-handed with Cap Soleil and Crossgalesfamegame, with Lady Buttons one of two for Phil Kirby, along with Desaray Girl.
Kirby also had the option of running the admirable Lady Buttons in Wednesday’s Champion Chase, but has opted for another crack at this race, in which she finished fourth last year.