This race is just in the second year since it’s inception and we’re set for another cracking renewal. Can Willie Mullins rule all again?
Who won the Mares Hurdle in 2016?
The first running of a race designed to bring together the best novice fillies and mares was rewarded with a large field and a classy winner trained by Willie Mullins.
The talented Limini had been hyped all winter as a potential superstar mare and she jumped better than expected, which was really the only thing that could stop her on the book.
She failed to build on her victory at Aintree though where she was found out against the boys, being put in her place quite readily – maybe a sign that the strength of this race shouldn’t be treated too highly from a form perspective.
But as I said, it’s early days for the race.
How to pick the winner of the Mares Hurdle 2017?
With only one race to go back on it’s tough to come to many conclusions, apart from the fact that two of the three horses that carried penalties in the race finished first and third.
So, don’t be put off by a mare that already has a Graded win to her name.
Ante-post Mares Hurdle tip?
You can’t go too far wrong backing Mullins mares at the Festival and Augusta Kate is being aimed at this race, which makes the 8/1 seem a little bit juicy when you consider the connections. She was a beaten favourite in the Champion Bumper last season but showed her true colours when landing a big gamble at Punchestown.
That form on its own would make her hard to beat here.
This could be one of the best ante post bets of the season.
I’d go lumping on each-way at those price.
Absolutely massive. I think she’ll be 7/4 on the day of the race.
For six of the eight running’s of the Mares Hurdle the race has been about one horse, “the Queen of Cheltenham” – Quevega.
Without fail between 2009 and 2014 the super-mare turned up often on her seasonal debut to take the race. Her record six straight wins in the contest looks certain to go down in history as feat never to be surpassed.
First run in 2008, the race was named in memory of the legendary trainer David Nicholson who always had a special affinity with the Festival. In recent years the race has carried the sponsors name OLBG.
Run over two miles and four furlongs, taking in nine flights of hurdles, the race takes place on the first day of the festival. In 2015 it was upgraded to a Grade One affair having previously a Grade Two contest, as a part of a wider programme to enhance the profile and attractiveness of mares races throughout the National Hunt season.
Following the retirement of the legendary mare Quevega, last year’s renewal looked at the mercy of the brilliant Annie Power, who before the meeting was many punters idea also of a Champion Hurdle winner. However, a seventh successive win for Walsh and Mullins was not to be when the mare fell at the last when looking certain of victory. Mullins however still took the race with his other talented mare – Glens Melody. The stable have commented since that their highlight of last year’s Festival was seeing the mare get up sound after the crashing fall.
Annie Power’s fall that day came as a saving grace for the bookies who were due to have been cleared out to the tune of millions on the back of thousands of winning multiple bets if she had made it homely safely.
ANTEPOST FOR 2016
It is no surprise that last year’s unlucky Annie Power is as short as odds-on with some firms to be victorious in 2016. The Mullins mare looks a cut above anything else in the potential field. The yard have signaled that they are certain to aim her at the race and it would take a very special mare to emerge or injury to challenge her position at the head of the ante post markets.
The only potential dangers to Annie Power might come from her own stable. With the 2015 winner Glens Melody having been retired to become a broodmare back in March, the likely challengers to the Ricci mare are Morning Run and Petite Parisienne.
Morning Run is held in high regard by her connections and remains unbeaten. Last seen in January at Fairyhouse when winning a Grade Three contest with ease, the mare has done nothing wrong in her career and deserves the much-used epithet of “could be anything”.
Mullins’ grey filly Petite Parisienne ran her male counterparts close in last year’s Triumph Hurdle, where she looked to have every chance two out. She went on from that run to win the Champion Four-year-old Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. If she improves again this season she will be a real contender in the Mares Hurdle.
Beyond the Mullins’ battalions Bitofapuzzle who beat Petite Parisienne at Fairyhouse looks to be the strongest challenger to Irish dominance of the race. Harry Fry’s mare finished third in the Mares Hurdle last year before going on to take the Grade One at Fairyhouse. The ultra-consistent mare certainly has place claims and will be one to watch this season.
The classy Aurore D’Estruval, didn’t make it to Cheltenham last year but certainly would have been a contender if she had. She chased an in-form Irving home in the Fighting Fifth with Artic Fire behind her in third that day. With that form in the book she deserves her position as second favourite in the ante post markets.
Blue Buttons was the impressive winner of the Wetherby listed Mares Hurdle and if she builds on that performance could be a place contender at the Festival.
With the strengthened programme of mares’ hurdles throughout the season and the new addition of the Dawn Run Novice Hurdle at the Festival in 2016, there are certain to be more mares and fillies emerging as potential Festival stars.
THREE TO FOLLOW FOR 2016 MARES HURDLE
PAST WINNERS OF THE MARES HURDLE
Year Winner Jockey Trainer
2015 GLENS MELODY PAUL TOWNEND W MULLINS
2014 QUEVEGA RUBY WALSH W MULLINS
2013 QUEVEGA RUBY WALSH W MULLINS
2012 QUEVEGA RUBY WALSH W MULLINS
2011 QUEVEGA RUBY WALSH W MULLINS