Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Group 1)
The Mares’ Hurdle has progressed hugely from Whiteoak’s win in the first running back on 2008. Quevega dominated it for six years, and it’s difficult to make the argument that it takes away from some of the other Grade 1s, Annie Power, (though she did fall) and Honeysuckle used it as stepping stones to Champion Hurdle success. Both those races also proved the talking points of the respective festivals.
With his nine wins from 14 runnings, you have to begin with the Willie Mullins-trained mares. With that in mind, the first consideration must be what will Willie do?
Concertisa is close to the top of the betting but she lost out by a head to Black Tears last year as the 10/11 favourite but with two wins over fences, the Mares’ Chase is more a possiblity, even if the stable have Elimay in it and the owners have Zambella.
Burning Victory needed to jump better, but did so in cheek-pieces at Punchestown, Echoes In Rain needs to be more consistent. Last season’s novice form would give her a chance but she has been found out at a higher level.
Queens’ Brook also emerged from her mid-week closing second as another to include and she has been backed since into 8s and makes more appeal than the winner as she looks the type to improve.
Last year’s Mares’ Novice winner Telmesomethinggirl heads the markets but goes there off a Christmas run when a length and a quarter third to Royal Kahala, giving her 5lb. That win was impressive but her overall form wouldn’t make you plunge in.
Royal Kahala sets the standard on recent form, if she goes here, though she ran badly at the Festival when favourite for the Mares’ Novice last season. Klassical Dream may have blown out at Gowran but she was a worthy winner. At 5/1 I’d rather take her than the favourite at 3s. An open Stayers’ Hurdle is the tempting.
Stormy Ireland won the Relkeel Hurdle over the new year over the course, but she was given a top-notch ride by Danny Mullins and may struggle to get an easy lead and breather in March. It’s decent form though as last flight faller Brewin’upastorm went on to win at Lingfield, giving 6lb to Darver Star with Goshen back in third.
There was about eight still in with a chance coming down the hill in the race last year and though Stormy Ireland could have a big say, her racing style might set the race up for others by setting a decent pace. It will be a good watch to see if D Mullins can pull it off again.
Heaven Help Us should run her usual honest race while finding one or two too good Warwick’s Listed Mares’ Hurdle may hold the key to the British challenge. There, over two miles and five, but off a slow pace with only four runners, Marie’s Rock came though to beat Get A Tonic and the 2020 Martin Pipe winner Indefatigable who had finished fourth in this last year to Black Tears.
Nicky Henderson seemed pretty confident of a big run from Marie’s Rock in his Cheltenham stable tour this week.
Indefatigable is also worth a second look at her odds. She went down by a neck at Cheltenham in December to Martello Sky giving her 5lb. She was beaten four and three-quarter lengths last year, but she is a tough mare who finishes her races well and off a stronger pace, could well get in the action. There are 33 and 25s around and that is too big.
Of the others, Martello Sky still has a lot to find. That lead us back to how strong the Irish challenge is and it looks a bit weaker thans in recent years.
Indefatigible 33/1 e/w Bet365, Unibet