The David Nicholson Mares Hurdle is a Grade 2 event run over two and a half miles, and has been run now for four years, and has been dominated by Quevega winning the last three.
Over the last three years the race has been won by the superstar racemare Quevega and trainer Willie Mullins will be sending her try and complete a historic four-timer in the race, named after the legendary David Nicholson, who rode 5 winners and trained 17 more in a fantastic career. Nicholson trained some of the fantastic festival favourites which include Barton Bank, Charter Party and the formidable Viking Flagship and to this day is sadly missed.
8yo bay mare
Robin Des Champs (FR)— Vega IV (FR) (Cap Martin (FR ))
Quevega returns again this year to defend her crown, and looks to have an excellent chance of doing just that. She readily accounted for her field in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and she made light work of nearest rival Sparky May (10L behind in second). She followed that victory up with a win in the World Series Hurdle (Grade 1) at Punchestown beating Mourad, and the way she travels through her races with an exceptional turn of foot it is surprising they haven’t tried pitching her in against the males in the Champion Hurdle before now, she certainly has the class to be competitive in that sphere but I guess Hurricane Fly has that area covered for the stable, based on last year’s performance.
Voler La Vedette
8yo bay mare
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Steel Grey Lady (IRE) (Roselier (FR) (16.0f))
Currently second favourite in the Antepost market, but has had documented problems with settling throughout her races in her career to date, and has clearly been revitalised by the application of a tongue-strap on her last four starts which has yielded three wins and a close second to Zaidpour over three miles when last seen. Despite this apparent improvement in form she is held on two runs by Quevega and I honestly can’t see her reversing form with Willie Mullins mare, but will probably run on into second place or so.
Our Girl Salley
7yo bay mare
Carroll House (7.7f) — Lenmore Lisa (IRE) (Phardante (FR) (12.7f))
Was touted to take up a position in this race last season but ended up swerving the contest for a race at Fairyhouse instead. Prior to that she was unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, but since then she has really struggled to find her form and in November was beaten in a handicap hurdle off 135. Despite winning a Grade 3 hurdle at Leopardstown in December her form is a long way from being competitive in this race against the principles and should really just be making up the numbers.
Kentford Grey Lady
6yo grey mare
Silver Patriarch (IRE) (11.2f) — Kentford Grebe (Teenoso (USA) (10.7f))
Has been improving with each run over hurdles after a low-key start, and she readily dispatched a handicap field off a mark of 122 in December before following that up with a close second to Violin Davis in a tactically run race and arguably won with a better position throughout the race and can be counted an unlucky loser. That said taking all this into account, and the expected improvement when she tackles a stronger pace she still has it to find with both Quevega and Voler La Vedette and looks likely to be battling it out for third place at the best.
6yo bay mare
Turgeon (USA) (10.4f) — Trumpet Davis (FR) (Rose Laurel (13.0f))
Is another which really looks to be making up the numbers and was beneficiary of a tactically astute ride in a stop-start race at Ascot last time. On my knowledge of the form this daughter of Turgeon will be battling out third place at the very best, and I think Kentford Grey Lady is open to further improvement given the expected stronger pace available at The Festival.
Others to note:
Alasi finished fourth in this race last year and has since embarked on a novice chase campaign prior to making a successful return over hurdles. Her form falls somewhat short of being capable of winning this and should be another to make up the numbers should she line up here. Askanna is another which could revert back to hurdling after not making the grade over fences so far, but Colin Bowe’s mare would need to improve out of all recognition to feature here.
A race which ultimately boils down to the two excellent Irish racemares in Quevega and Voler La Vedette, it is impossible to see defeat for the Willie Mullins trained Quevega given she holds the edge over Colm Murphy’s mare on their encounters thus far (2/2) and despite her recent rejuvenation for the application of a tongue-strap it remains hard to imagine she’ll be able to throw it down to Quevega who has looked so impressive when coming to the Festival off a break (like she does here).
She may not be any sort of price at even money (slightly less on Betfair) at the time of writing, but she should have little trouble completing the four-timer, and will help pay for a few additional ‘Festival’ bets.