The ultimate hurdling test for female horses is the OLBG Mares' Hurdle and we have free betting tips and advice for the race!
Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival routinely gets the proceedings underway with a bang, and this year is no different! Not only will we get to see Hurricane Fly attempt to defend his Champion Hurdle crown, but racing fans will have the pleasure of witnessing the Queen of National Hunt Hurdle racing return to her beloved Cheltenham. Quevega bids to win the Mare’s Hurdle for a sixth consecutive year after a determined victory nearly 12 months ago. Will she succeed or will a new emerging talent end her reign?
Unbeaten in eight races since 2010, QUEVEGA (10/11 Betfred) has categorically stamped her authority on the mares’ hurdle division and is yet to be beaten at Prestbury Park. A rarity on the racecourse, she routinely picks up the Mares’ Hurdle prize at the Cheltenham Festival over 2m4f before going-on to claim victory in the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival over 3m. Her victory at Cheltenham last year may have lacked the dominance of previous displays but was mightily impressive nonetheless. She was unfortunate enough to clip heels at the top of the hill and after managing to regain her balance she had to be pushed along by Ruby Walsh a good distance from the winning line. Despite showing signs of struggle, her class prevailed and she was able to grind down the eventual runner-up Sirene D’Ainay. She followed up her victory at Cheltenham by trouncing the Long Walk Hurdle winner, Reve De Sivola, along with stablemate and Grade One winner, Zaidpour, at the Punchestown Festival. Now bidding for a record sixth Cheltenham Festival victory, her trainer Willie Mullins has stated that she is ahead of schedule. Should she return to the Festival in full health and in good form then she will prove extremely difficult to beat.
Of those snapping at her hoofs, the main danger has to be her stablemate and undefeated mare, Annie Power (9/2 BetVictor). This 6 year-old completed last seasons’ campaign with a facile victory in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse against her own sex. She has continued to improve this season and has claimed the scalps of good quality horses, such as Zarkander and Doyly Carte, along the way. Undoubtedly Willie Mullins has yet another extremely exciting prospect with this horse and she is destined to continue to claim Grade 1 prizes even against her opposite sex. Alongside the Mares’ Hurdle she is entered in both the Champion Hurdle and World Hurdle, the latter two are races which she is far more likely to line up in. Willie Mullins has an embarrassment of riches in all hurdling divisions and will likely try to keep his superstars apart. Therefore with Hurricane Fly in the Champion and Quevega in the Mares’ Annie Power looks the ideal candidate to provide Mullins with a fanatic chance of claiming the 3m staying prize.
Outside of the top two in the ante-post betting market we have a number of good quality horses who will be looking to emerge as likely threats to Quevega’s crown. Last year’s runner-up, Sirene D’Ainay (10/1 Stan James) looks likely to return to Prestbury Park in an attempt to go one better. Before last year’s tilt at the Mares’ Hurdle, she had won her previous two starts in good fashion and came over from France in good form. This season she is yet to show any strong form and has been beaten in all of her races, bar her last start where she was the only horse who managed to finish. This 8 year-old daughter of Dom Alco hasn’t shown the form needed to even be able to compete with Quevega and her chances do look slim on what she has achieved in France.
Back on home soil, an interesting contender is the John Quinn trained Cockney Sparrow (8/1 Coral). At the age of 5, this horse is still progressing and has shown strong form this season. She claimed victory at Wetherby in a Listed Mares’ race before going on to finish only 3 lengths behind My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. On her last start she came up against Annie Power at Doncaster over 2m1f and performed well up until she fell two out. It is very doubtful that she would have beaten the Willie Mullins’ mare that day but she certainly would have given a creditable display. She looks like more of a stayer and over 2m4f at Cheltenham she is certain to get the test of stamina that she needs. Barring incidents and injury, she should struggle to beat Quevega; but at her current odds she does look good value from an each-way point of view.
Other horses to note include Glen’s Melody (14/1 Betfred) and Highland Retreat (20/1 William Hill). The former is another Willie Mullins’ inmate who has found success in England this season winning twice at Warwick in competitive Mares’ events. She failed to perform well at Cheltenham however and she should struggle against her stablemate. Highland Retreat is an interesting horse for Harry Fry who is so far unbeaten this season after notching up three victories at Wincanton, Kempton and Ascot. Her final start at Ascot was particularly impressive as she beat a competitive field of mares to land the Grade 2 prize. Her trainer has stated she is unlikely to appear at Cheltenham and on that basis cant be backed.
Unsurprisingly the verdict goes in favour of QUEVEGA. On the basis that Annie Power is unlikely to contest the race unless something happens to her stablemate, Quevega looks to be faced with yet another field far too inferior to worry her. Her formidable record at Cheltenham is enough of a positive to warrant my selection and providing Willie Mullins is able to continue to work his magic with her then her victory looks highly likely and her current odds-on valuation accurately reflects this. In terms of a good each-way selection Cockney Sparrow looks to be the best bet. Providing she has fully recovered from her fall last time out, and retains all of her confidence, she looks to be the best of the rest.
QUEVEGA (WIN) (10/11 Betfred)
COCKNEY SPARROW (E/W) (8/1 Coral)
Simply follow these simple steps –
1. click on the above link on your mobile
2. create an account and enter your details
3. you will receive a free bet of £10