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Mares' Hurdle Preview

A grade one for Mares over two and a half miles that is run on the old course on day one of the festival. The race itself is relatively young having been first contested in 2008. You probably won't be surprised to hear it has been dominated largely by Willie Mullins; the master trainer has won 9 of the 14 renewals so far, the latest being in 2018. He was unlucky in the race last year as his now Mares' Chase favourite, Concertista, was collared close home by Black Tears. Unfortunately neither of last years photo finish will contest the race this year, Concertista has gone chasing, with Black Tears retired to become a broodmare with her all important black type achieved. The race has also thrown up a few superstars in its short life so far. Quevega dominated this race in its early years, winning it no less than six times, she is considered one of, if not, the best mare of all time. More recently Honeysuckle won this and she needs no introducing, now bidding for her second consecutive champion hurdle. Apple's Jade won no less than eleven grade ones including this race, as well as a few grade twos. Benie Des Dieux and Vroum Vroum Mag were both high class too. This year we don't appear to have a real superstar, but who knows, we could be looking at the next Honeysuckle and not know it yet, she wasn't even favourite for the race the year that she won it!

A good place to start dissecting this race would be in the same colours as Honeysuckle and for the same trainer, Telmesomethinggirl, last years mares novice hurdle winner. She's 7/2 best priced, after two runs without a win this year. Her seasonal reappearance was a fifth in listed company, where she looked fairly large and like she needed that run. Having to give away 10lbs, she was held up and stayed on without ever really looking like the winner. After the race Henry De Bromhead mentioned that this race was her seasonal target and they were working backwards from it. She came on massively for that run with a much better third placed finish in the grade three mares event over Christmas at Leopardstown. Giving 5lbs to the winner and 8lbs to the second, she stayed on very well shaping like the best horse in the race and was short of room at points only to finish a length off the front two. She had gone off 11/1 for that race and wasn't particularly fancied on the day. The winner was Royal Kahala and she has since won the grade two Galmoy hurdle, beating the stayers hurdle hope Klassical Dream. She is a bit of a mudlark and saves her best for horrendous ground, if we had a lot of rain before Cheltenham she may even go off favourite for this race. However, after showing how much three miles suited her last time and with the Stayers' looking an open renewal with the favourites taking it in turn to underwhelm, connections could look to send her there instead. Splitting Royal Kahala and Telmesomethinggirl was 2021 Coral Cup heroine Heaven Help Us, who has shown good form at the course and would rate a serious contender, though off level weights and therefore 8lbs worse off she'd have a bit to find with Telmesomethinggirl. With the weight swing and better ground likely, Telmesomethinggirl has course form in the book, and will be primed and ready to roll, I'd hope she can reverse the form with the two that finished ahead of her.

Next in the market at 11/2 is the aforementioned Royal Kahala; we then have Stormy Ireland at 7/1 who looks to be Mullins' best shot at the race. Stormy Ireland is a game font runner who most recently won the grade two Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham but to my eye looked set for second with Brewin'upastorm looming up alongside her before falling at the last. You suspect with her running style she may be vulnerable to a closer, but deserves her place as third favourite. Heaven Help Us at 9/1 is next and we know she does well at the course, as well as winning last years Coral Cup she was 7th in Shishkin's supreme and even won her maiden back there in 2019. I like her but at current prices would probably leave it. Particularly as she won't get an easy lead with Stormy Ireland in the race, the two could end up cutting each other's throats upfront setting it up for a closer like Telmesomethinggirl. Fortunate 2020 Triumph winner, Burning Victory is 10/1 and after some excellent flat runs last year, including a good second to Buzz in the Cesarewitch when actually giving away weight to him. She was most recently a good third in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, behind Klassical Dream and Flooring Porter. She shaped quite well but looked, as though a drop in trip to the middle distance would suit her. She has good back class and despite only having three hurdles runs in nearly two years since her Triumph triumph, I would think she has a good chance here.

With a similar profile to Heaven Help Us, Mrs Milner, a 12/1 shot, was a good handicap winner at last years festival, bolting up in the Pertemps. With no entry for the Stayers Hurdle, she will more than likely run here, though I think the trip may be a little sharp for her. Indefatigable, Martello Sky and Molly Ollys Wis he’s, are the shortest priced English trained horses at 14/1 each. Indefatigable and Martello Sky are closely matched on form, and both come with each-way claims. Molly Ollys Wishes comes into the race off the back of a good grade two win over three miles last time out. It was a strange race with a front runner boiling over and going far too hard. Molly Ollys Wishes took over sooner than she would have liked and ended up tiring close home but held off My Sister Sarah for Mullins. In theory the shorter trip here should suit her, having also won a listed race over two miles. She’s not short of pace and could run well. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that My Sister Sarah wouldn’t be Mullins first string and Whitehotchillifili was a close third that day, chasing home My Sister Sarah. Whitehotchillifili was a well beaten last by thirty four lengths in the race last year, so cast doubts on how strong the form of that grade two is.

Third to Ferny Hollow in his Champion Bumper victory, Queens Brook would be an interesting runner and she beat Ciel De Neige easily when last seen, Ciel De Neige has since won twice over fences and looks to be a good horse, at 16/1 she could outrun her odds. She is entered for this but hasn't been seen since November, which is a concern. If she gets another run before Cheltenham we should learn more as to her chances here. At bigger prices a few could be of interest, Echoes In Rain was highly thought of going into this year, but her 33/1 odds would tell you what sort of form she has shown this year. She is also particularly keen and wouldn't be certain to stay this trip without settling much better. Elle Est Belle at 33/1 was mentioned as a possibility for this, but I can't imagine her going for this instead of the mares novice hurdle, especially with stablemate and fellow mares novice prospect, Nurse Susan beat recently. Finally, My Sister Sarah also at 33/1, was a close second in that grade two Molly Ollys Wishes won and perhaps is a little overpriced based on that.

I've backed a few for this Ante Post and I'm really happy with my selections, based on current prices and how the horses have run since.

Telmesomethinggirl - Mares' Hurdle 9/1 1pt each way (12/04/2021)

The Glancing Queen - Mares' Hurdle 40/1 0.5pts each way (19/07/2021)

Telmesomethinggirl/Allaho - Mares Hurdle/Ryanair - 44/1 1pt win double

Burning Victory - Mares’ Hurdle - 33/1 0.5pts each way (22/11/2021)

Barring The Glancing Queen who has had a very strong novice chasing campaign and is 10/1 for the Mares Chase and unlikely to turn up here, the other three bets are all looking strong. Telmesomethinggirl is now 7/2 favourite with the other part of the double, Allaho, 5/4 for the Ryanair. Burning Victory has been running well in three-mile races but looks set to drop back in trip to this race and has been cut from 33/1 all the way into 10/1. The race does still have an air of uncertainty and is no forgone conclusion, but I will be adding just one more bet for the race and head into it quietly confident of coming out of it in profit.

The final selection is Indefatigable each way at 14/1 NRNB, a generally consistent mare, she was fourth in the race last year. This season she has won a grade two over three miles, which beforehand looked like a fairly weak field. However, there were two subsequent grade two winners in behind including Paisley Park, so in hindsight, that form can be upgraded. Her following start she was last of six in a similar event but was never happy that day and I'm happy to draw a line through that altogether. She was back to herself on her most recent start finishing a neck second to Martello Sky in a course and distance handicap, where she was carrying an extra 5lbs. Back at level weights come the festival I think she will reverse form with her, and prove to be the best English runner. Martello Sky boosted that form next time by winning a mares listed race in a field that included Gauloise for Willie Mullins and grade one winner Skyace. The race last year was run in a slow time and ended up being a bit of a sprint finish which didn't suit the selection, despite this she still managed a good fourth with the three ahead of her all very good mares. The field this year doesn’t seem to have any horses of that top class ability. I also think with a couple of confirmed front runners such as Stormy Ireland and Heaven Help Us, the race should pan out to suit her a little more and her stamina can come into play.

Indefatigable 14/1 0.5pts each way (NRNB)

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