For the first time in six years the OLBG Mares Hurdle doesn’t feature the amazing Quevega who ran up an incredible 6-timer in the race she has made her own, she has now been retired which means for the first time since Whiteoak won this race in 2008, the race is going to be won by a different horse than the Mullins supermare.
That doesn’t mean to say the prize will go anywhere other than Closutton though as Willie Mullins appears to have a formidable hand in this contest, headed by short-priced favourite Annie Power who looks seriously hard to beat if recapturing her form of last season.
Shirocco (GER) (12.0f) — Anno Luce (Old Vic (13.0f))
Notes: The clear class horse in the field and a repeat of any of her starts over hurdles last season would be more than enough to take this prize. The trip of two and a half miles looks ideal for this daughter of Shirocco, and the way she travelled in the World Hurdle last year will stand her in good stead for this over the half-mile shorter distance. Off since winning the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in May, she has been side-lined with a few niggling problems over the winter but Mullins has proven adept at bringing horses back to concert pitch at this meeting, and that magic worked wonders with Quevega.
Nickname (FR) — Option D´Estruval (FR) (Epervier Bleu (10.9f))
Notes: John Quinn saddles the exciting Aurore D’Estruval in opposition to the Mullins pair, and she was last seen when running away with a Listed mare’s event at Sandown on her most recent start in January. Prior to that she finished runner-up to Irving in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle towards the end of November and heads to The Festival with claims.
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Glens Music (IRE) (Orchestra (10.1f))
Notes: The second string for the Mullins camp and a gallant second in this race twelve months ago. She has looked as good as ever this season although at times her hurdling has lacked fluency, and signed off with an impressive win at Warwick earlier this month, a race she won twelve months ago.
Shantou (USA) (14.2f) — Miss Denman (IRE) (Presenting (13.8f))
Notes: The Nicky Henderson trained mare returned better than ever to land the odds at Wincanton on her seasonal debut, but disappointed upped in trip at Kempton in November. She hasn’t been seen since which suggests something has come to light in that performance and providing all is well with her, a return to possible better ground next month would be seen as a positive.
Hernando (FR) (12.4f) — Carole´s Crusader (Faustus (USA) (9.3f))
Notes: It has been a good couple of years for this free-wheeling daughter of Hernando who has won 4 of her 6 starts over hurdles for trainer Robert Walford, finishing runner-up on the other two occasions. Likely to head off from the front, she was an all-the-way winner of the race at Kempton where Polly Peachum ran below-par and heads to this race at the top of her game after a fine effort giving away weight at Ascot when last seen.
Little King Robin ran up a sequence towards the back end of the summer but has been soundly beaten in her most recent three starts. She was well beaten on her return from a short break at Punchestown a week ago, and although you’d have expected Colin Bowe to have left her short with a view to improvement next month it’s hard not to be disappointed by that.
L’Unique is a filly that shows all her best form on quicker ground and improved to a fine third place in this race last year. On paper she lacks the class of a few of these and I think third would be about her best possible placing once again if all goes to plan.
Rock On The Moor improved for the step-up in trip to win at Punchestown last week and is open to further improvement at this trip. It remains to be seen if she lines up for this race but is anticipated she won’t have the class to trouble the principles.
The Pirates Queen has come to hand this winter for trainer Alan King and impressed with her attitude when seeing off Bitofapuzzle at Haydock on bottomless ground in December. Conditions will be very different next month and she looks to face an uphill task against some high quality mares.
The 2015 renewal of the OLBG Mares Hurdle looks to revolve around the exciting race-mare ANNIE POWER. If she turns up (and I expect she will) then the remainder will be playing for the places. Her form last year is high and above anything else the remainder of the field have achieved and a repeat of any of those efforts will see her home in-front here, adding another victory in the race to trainer Willie Mullins.
Whilst you won’t get rich taking the currently available 10/11, it looks virtually impossible to see her beaten and I’d be looking to make her around a 1/2 shot against this level of opposition so the current price still represents value for me.
Of the remainder the Nicky Henderson trained Polly Peachum rates the biggest danger for me, providing she is back to full health after a disappointing display at Kempton at the end of November.
Glens Melody once again looks sure to run her race and if doing so will be fighting out the places, but all the form points towards Annie Power dazzling viewers with an accomplished performance.