The OLBG Mares Hurdle (David Nicholson Mares Hurdle) is due to be run under the same sponsorship for the second time, having sponsored the race for the first time last year.
For four years this race has been all about one mare, Quevega who has lifted this contest on four consecutive occasions. For the last couple of years the bigger hitters amongst punters have been doubling up both her and Big Buck’s as their bankers throughout the week, however this will be the first time Big Buck’s will miss the Cheltenham Festival in 5 years!
As far as trends go it is pretty impossible to put anything forward, given the fact Quevega has won four of the last five renewals of the race.
Robin Des Champs (FR) — Vega IV (FR) (Cap Martin (FR ))
Notes: Without doubt the star attraction within this race having won this contest for the last four years in a row. Was last seen dominating the field in the World Series Hurdle at Punchestown in April, and has shown a proven ability to go well fresh. She certainly sets the standard against these mares and will be renewing her partnership with Ruby Walsh which has yielded 8 victories from 9 races together – the one to beat.
Alberto Giacometti (IRE) — Castagnette III (FR) (Tin Soldier (FR ))
Notes: Winner of the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last year at a whopping 40-1. She has remained unbeaten since if you discount her minor blip when refusing to race at Punchestown last April. She has returned better than ever starting with a victory at Wetherby over two miles, before accounting for both Alasi and Kentford Grey Lady stepped up in distance at Sandown the last day. Is certainly bred to improve for the step-up to this distance and should go well next month, but benefitted from being better positioned in a ridiculously run race last time and although was giving 8lb to Kentford Grey Lady that day may find it a totally different ball game off level weights in the OLBG Mares Hurdle next month.
Danehill Dancer (IRE) (8.3f) — Legend Has It (IRE) (Sadler´s Wells (USA) (11.4f))
Notes: Second to Zarkandar at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago in the Triumph Hurdle, she has taken a more domestic approach since that defeat. Winner of the Istabraq Hurdle in 2011 at Leopardstown, she returned to defend her crown in that race this campaign but was no match for Hurricane Fly who beat her convincingly. Stepping up to this distance for the first time over hurdles she has listed placed form over a mile and six on the flat behind Group 1 winner Fame And Glory so you’d think she’d stay this trip fairly well. Certainly one of the more interesting sorts against the hotpot favourite.
Kentford Grey Lady
Silver Patriarch (IRE) (11.6f) — Kentford Grebe (Teenoso (USA) (10.7f))
Notes: Second in this race last year it is well-known that she requires plenty of work to get her fit, so the fact she returned with a victory in a handicap off a mark of 135 looks a fairly decent level. Beaten next time at Sandown in a ridiculously run race, she wasn’t positioned well in a race which developed into a sprint and thus was never going to catch Une Artiste. On the basis of form and the fact she was getting 8lb from both Une Artiste and Alasi you’d have to think she should have been winning a race of that nature, but the way the race was run was totally against her and she can be forgiven that effort. An improved performance in the Cleeve Hurdle over a trip further than her best, on ground softer than ideal but the pace of race was more to her liking, she travelled so well throughout the latter part of the race and momentarily looked like she was going to play a hand in the finish before flattening out up the home straight – this was a return to form she is capable of and looks a danger back on better ground next month. Due to run in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock later on today.
Alflora (IRE) — Anamasi (Idiots Delight (15.1f))
Notes: Certainly looks to be improving with age, and has made a fairly pleasing comeback this campaign most recently taking the notable scalp of Champion Court over fences, who is now Ryanair Chase bound. She spent last season mixing up chasing and hurdling and won the Grade 2 Mares Hurdle at Doncaster prior to finishing fourth to Quevega in this race last year. It was her second fourth place finish in this race in the last two years, and looks set to be heading in the same direction again where certainly she’d have a chance of grabbing a place. Like Kentford Grey Lady she was badly positioned at Sandown last time when beaten by Une Artiste in a tactical run affair but she has more tactical pace than that rival so was able to make up more ground than the Emma Lavelle trained grey. Clearly in decent heart she looks sure to appreciate the return to quicker ground next month, and does look overpriced at around 25-1 if repeating her recent form.
Utopie Des Bordes was the winner of the Jane Seymour Novices Hurdle at Sandown yesterday where she beat She Ranks me (getting 5lb) by 1.75 lengths. Connections started after the race the Albert Bartlett Hurdle is her most likely target and chances are she’ll be heading in that direction with the Mares allowance.
She Ranks Me wasn’t quite good enough to give away weight and a beating to Utopie Des Bordes yesterday, but has put together some decent performances since switching to Donald McCain. A winner of two listed hurdles at Newbury and Haydock recently she is certainly going the right way but likely to find a couple of these too good for her next month.
Swing Bowler wasn’t good enough off a featherweight in the Betfair Hurdle last time up when beaten by novice My Tent Or Yours, and with that one heading the market for the Supreme Novices Hurdle it is hardly surprising to see a potential tilt at this race by connections. Her pedigree suggests she’ll improve for better ground being by Galileo and surely couldn’t be dismissed on what I’ve seen so far.
Mischievous Milly is an interesting sort judging by the performance last time, lightly raced and unexposed she could be anything but would take further improvement again to have a say in this.
A race which looks at the mercy of Quevega once more as she edges ever nearer to an unthinkable five-timer in the race. Her form in the race and ability to turn up and win works against her here in terms of a punting proposition, with 4-6 currently the largest price available.
Une Artiste is likely to have plenty of friends as an each-way alternative to the favourite, especially given the fact she has previous Cheltenham Festival winning form.
Unaccompanied is stepping into the unknown over hurdles going up in trip, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you take into account her form on the flat.
Alasi looks set for another solid run in a race where she has finish fourth in the last two renewals. She looks as good as ever and shouldn’t be 25-1 but is likely again to find one or two to good for her on the day.
That said to me I can’t get away from KENTFORD GREY LADY who I think will be capable of righting the wrongs of the Sandown form with Alasi and Une Artiste the last time these trio met, with the return to a sounder surface and better gallop adding to her chances.
She travelled supremely well in the Cleeve Hurdle the last day and looked like playing a hand in the finish against both Oscar Whisky and Reve De Sivola at the top of the straight. She weakened out of it on the run-in but still snatched third and on that form she is the most back-able horse against the short priced favourite.
She is due to run in the Rendlesham Hurdle in around an hour at Haydock Park, and should she come through that assignment unscathed I can’t see the 9-1 hanging around for long with the big race just a month away.