• Hands Heels

Mares' Novice Hurdle

For just the first time in this races short history, last year was won by a trainer not named Willie Mullins. Last years brilliant winner, Telmesomethinggirl has gone on to be favourite for the Mares' Hurdle this year. Typically Mullins has a strong hand here and looks set to make it 6/7 wins in this race. In fact he has the first three in the betting and other horses who wouldn't be without chance.

Favourite is Allegorie De Vassy in the Rich Ricci silks, winner on her debut beating Monishter Are Mwee, which has surprisingly worked out quite well. MAM is no world beater but beat Guily Billy and followed up with a fourth and third in a couple of Grade Threes. Her next start Allegorie De Vassy was pitched into the Solerina Mares' Hurdle which is a grade three, winning fairly comfortably in the end she was a straightforward ride and jumped very well. In second that day was Brandy Love who is 4/1 for this race, beaten three lengths you might initially wonder how the market has them just a half a point different. If you watch that race back you'll be taken firstly by how straightforward and uncomplicated Allegorie De Vassy was, she looks a chaser in the making, jumped well and travelled well. Secondly you might be surprised at just how badly left she jumped and, ironically because of her name, how difficult a ride Brandy Love was. She was pulling Paul Townend violently left and the fact she was able to stay on despite everything going wrong, to get back within 3 and a bit lengths at the finish, shows how big an enginer she might have. Going left handed at Cheltenham might make the difference, especially as for that win ADV will have to carry a penalty here. Grangee, another Mullins trained mare that is 12/1 for this race, also ran in that race and was running a nice enough race before she fell as the race was starting to hot up. She has run in some strong races this year and could be a little overpriced. She beat Brandy Love in a bumper last year and wouldn't be a shock winner by any means.

The third favourite is Dinoblue, who has only made one start for Mullins winning by 15 lengths under a hands and heels ride. Well supported in the market, the second and third were also Mullins mares. The second and third seemed to confirm that was strong form as they contested the same maiden race next time out and pulled miles clear and were set to finish 1st and 2nd, one unfortunately fell but it still showed how impressive it was for Dinoblue to dispose of them so easily. She is massively unexposed after only having the one run but Mullins has won this race twice with horses on only their second starts so that wouldn't put me off. She has to have a great chance.

Two of the next three in the market are British trained, Elle Est Belle at 7/1 and Love Envoi at 9/1. Elle Est Belle would be a live contender, she was third in last years Champion Bumper, and has had some decent form this year. After a disappointing debut where she was well beaten, she bolted up by 8 lengths in a listed hurdle, she than ran against the Geldings in the Grade Two Kennel Gate, she finished fourth of five but was only 5 lengths off of Supreme contender, Jonbon. She ran last week in the Sidney Banks, a listed novice over 2 and a half miles, and won getting up just in time. Trainers comments after the race would slightly concern me had I backed, as they seemed to be preferring skipping Cheltenham to run at Aintree. If she were to run she would have a good chance though. Love Envoi is unbeaten having won a bumper and then four hurdles starts. Progressing through the grades with each run she most recently won the grade two Jane Seymour over two and a half miles. She made an awful mistake two out ploughing straight through the hurdle, but kept on to win despite that. She has form on good and heavy ground, has won over 2 miles and 2 and a half and seems a hardy versatile mare. The British form might not be quite as strong as the Irish form, but you'd have to give her an each way shout. Splitting them in the market is Party Central for Gordon Elliott at 8.1, a good bumper horse having been grade two and listed placed as well as picking up a listed win, she is now 3/4 over hurdles. After winning her maiden, she was upped to grade three level and went off a short priced favourite before weakening away. She put that behind her by winning a listed hurdle from another Elliott horse. Surprisingly she was given a mark off just 121 and capitalised on that by winning the mares handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival, a race that has provided the last two winners of this, you'd expect her to come here and is a real contender for this race.

Other Mullins horse who are worth mentioning are Royal Bond winner Statuiare at 14/1, she would also have to carry a penalty, but is the only grade one winner in the race. Hors Piste made amends for a neck second on debut by winning yesterday and could improve again, but for me she might lack a little pace having done her running over further. He also has Heia, 20/1, Mighty Blue 16/1, La Prima Donna and Mi Lighthouse both 33/1 and Take Tea at 50/1 who would all need to improve on what they’re shown, but have at least hinted at ability.

Outside of the Mullins runners, those at bigger prices who need mentioning are Nurse Susan, 16/1, a stablemate of Elle Est Belles who has shown good form but was well beaten on last start. Speech Bubble, 33/1, chased home Love Envoi this week in the grade two and I was quite taken by that run. Nina The Terrier, 33/1, was third in that race but had shown really good form at the start of the year, beating Elle Est Belle and giving her weight. A return to better ground could bring her back to form and is worth a mention at a price.

Just the two selections from my Ante Post blog for this race, both taken early into the year.

Glens Of Antrim - Mares' Novice Hurdle 33/1 1pt each way (19/04/2021)

Grangee - Mares' Novice Hurdle - 16/1 0.5pts each way (20/09/2021)

Grangee fell most recently when running a good race behind Allegorie De Vassy and Brandy Love, who she beat in a bumper last year. If none the worse for that fall, I still like her for this race and 16/1 was a good price. Glens Of Antrim had shown strong form last year and at 33/1 the second season novice angle is still one I like, best price for her was 12/1, unfortunately she has been taken out the race, perhaps being aimed at something like the Coral Cup where I would give her a good chance.

As we are closer to the festival now the market is a bit more formed and we have seen all of the contenders race, the one who I think is a bet now is a mare in the same colours as Glens Of Antrim, Dinoblue. At 6/1 this horse made a brilliant debut beating, a couple of other Mullins mares, the third of which bolted up in a race where the second fell when going well too. It was visually very impressive and she's massively unexposed. She was entered in the grade one novice hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival but didn't end up running, but she's clearly highly thought of. Dinoblue at 6/1 would be a 1pt win bet. I'm also going to have an each way play on one that might be going under the radar quite a bit, Say Goodbye 0.5pts each way at 25/1. She ran a brilliant race finishing powerfully to get to just a length off of Party Central in that Mares' Handicap, the last two winners of this race placed in that handicap on their previous start. Her other form this year is a bit more unique as she had been running in open Mares’ races against non-novices. Her form this year reads 12232, the win coming in a maiden, she was then within a length and a half of French Maid over 2 miles and 4 furlongs. French Maid is a previous grade two winner and grade one placed mare, so very good form by Say Goodbye. Her next second was back down to two miles in a Mares' Listed race, she stayed on well to be the 10 length second to Western Victory, again a graded placed mare and two time listed winner that got within 6 lengths of Honeysuckle once upon a time. Her third was a somewhat distant 26 lengths behind Lunar Display (who she'd previously beaten) and Queens Brook who is a live outsider for the Mares' Hurdle having beaten Ciel De Neige. Those three runs came within the space of a month and after fairly decent break she ran in that strong handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival. She was off the same mark as Party Central and came from even further back. We know she stays further and I think could have a similar ride in this race and hopefully stay on into a place.

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