Rewind the clock back twelve months ago and heading towards the last Annie Power seemingly had the OLBG Mares Hurdle in the bag, until she got the last wrong and ended up on the floor.
Rich Ricci’s star racemare doesn’t bid to right the wrongs of twelve months ago and instead heads for the Champion Hurdle, but connections look to have a more than able deputy in the shape of Vroum Vroum Mag, who has looked a class act on what we’ve seen thus far.
Cheltenham 2016 – OLBG Mares Novices Hurdle
VROUM VROUM MAG
Voix Du Nord (FR) — Naiade Mag (FR) (Kadalko (FR))
Notes: Vroum Vroum Mag which roughly translates to “Irish Win Machine” has done absolutely nothing wrong since coming into the care of Willie Mullins, mixing chasing and hurdling with similar degrees of success. The manner in which she beat her rivals at Ascot suggested she was a major player for this race and certainly looks the one they all have to beat.
Shantou (USA) (14.2f) — Miss Denman (IRE) (Presenting (13.7f))
Notes: Runner-up in this race twelve months ago when narrowly denied by Glen’s Melody, she has returned as good as ever this campaign with a second and win to her name. Again she is one you can see being in the shake-up as they come over the last, along with last year’s third but she’ll need to improve again to beat the Mullins favourite.
Kayf Tara — Just Kate (Bob´s Return (IRE))
Notes: Ran a really good race at Sandown when a narrow second to Polly Peachum but was some way below that form when beaten into fifth by Vroum Vroum Mag at Ascot in January. She looks to not quite be good enough on the whole at this sort of level.
Tamure (IRE) — Gaelic Gold (IRE) (Good Thyne (USA))
Notes: A very useful type over hurdles last season but hasn’t really gone on over fences as hoped after an initially promising debut. She was third in this race twelve months ago and connections have resorted to going back over hurdles for a tilt at this. Whilst she doesn’t look quite good enough to lower the colours of Vroum Vroum Mag at this point, she will certainly be thereabouts.
Smart Talk has really impressed since going over hurdles this term but the new Grade 2 novices’ race on the card looks more likely a target for her at this stage of her career.
Jessber’s Dream is improving with each outing under the watchful eye of Harry Fry, but was outstayed at Warwick by Flute Bowl two starts ago and can throw in the odd clunker over her hurdles, just looks a little bit short of the level required here for one so inexperienced.
Lily Waugh has improved at a real rate this winter under David Noonan winning handicaps off 119, 126 and 134 before not having the pace to go with the winner Smart Talk over two miles at Doncaster when last seen. Whilst she has no doubt improved, it’s hard to see her being good enough in open grade on what we’ve seen of her.
Desert Queen started off nicely over hurdles and after being pulled-up on her return ran out a ready winner of a handicap off 130 in November. Beaten almost two lengths off a mark of 142 over the festive period, she then did too much too soon at Ascot in the race won by Vroum Vroum Mag and looks the lack the class needed to play a hand here.
Whilst you won’t get rich backing horses at the sort of price VROUM VROUM MAG is currently trading at, she has been so impressive in her victories to date both over hurdles and fences that it is hard to see past her.
She had many of these rivals beaten in-behind her at Ascot towards the back-end of January and I also feel she has a class advantage over her two biggest rivals Polly Peachum and Bitofapuzzle.