Festival Focus: Mares’ Races

Mares’ Races have been a recent edition to the Cheltenham Festival, and there have been some moments that went down in Festival history. Best of Bets takes a look at the Mares Hurdle and Mares Chase.

Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle – 2m 3F 200yds – Grade One

The Mares Hurdle was only established in 2008, yet it has given us horses, and races, that will forever be part of the Festival picture. Quevega, Annie Power and Marie’s Rock, who triumphed last year.

This year the Queen of hurdling is set to come to the Mares’ Hurdle to look to regain her title which she won in 2020. Honeysuckle might not have had a vintage season, but she has performed admirably in defeat. Coming up against two staying horses in the Hatton’s Grace, and a young Irish talent in State Man in the Irish Champion Hurdle, she looks to bow out of her career with a win at the Festival.

She does face tough competition, as Marie’s Rock looks to defend her title. Only two runs since her Festival heroics, she backed it up by winning at Punchestown in April then in the Relkeel in January. Lightly raced, she looks the one to give Honeysuckle a big challenge. But, as of writing, Seven Barrows hasn’t confirmed if she will defend her title here, or go for the Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday.

Brandy Love was recently acquired by the Donnelly’s, and on her belated return to the track, she put in a disappointing performance to finish third behind Queens Brook. Having said that, she has been very lightly raced, only four runs over hurdles. And, maybe, that inexperience may let her down.

Love Envoi is a former Festival winner, having won the Mares’ Novices’ last year. Again, lightly raced, she backed up her efforts by winning the Listed Mares’ Hurdle at Sandown. The only slight concern is the ground. Forecasts still predict good ground, and with only one run on Good to Soft, which was a three-quarter length win, she’s unproven over the surface.

Echoes In Rain looked back to her best when winning last time out at Naas. She faces a step up in trip, she has raced over two-and-a-half miles but fell in the Hatton’s Grace. Last year she performed poorly, finishing fifth, but a turn around in form this season, may see her as an each-way pick.

Verdict: Love Envoi; despite having no run over good ground, she has won at Cheltenham. Youthful, and lightly raced seems the key to this race. Sadly, I can only see Honeysuckle bowing out quietly. 7/1 best price for Love Envoi with William Hill.

Each-way pick: West Balboa looks a little overpriced. She won a Lanzarote that fell apart and matches some of the criteria needed to win the race. Her last graded race was the 2021 Challow Hurdle, and could spring a surprise at 33/1 with bet365.

Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase – 2m 4F 127yds – Grade Two

This is only the third running of the race, so it’s hard to pull any trends or any facts and figures from a newly established race.

The past two winners have gone off at 9/4, if that means anything, but neither were favourites, so maybe those second or third in the market have a better chance.

Allegroie De Vassy is looking to become the first favourite to win the race, but from what I have seen this season, she shouldn’t be up at the very top. She jumps markedly to the right, which is a huge negative around Cheltenham, she looks very keen in her racing, another negative, and she’s a novice who’s racing against more experienced horses. For me, she just can’t be trusted.

Impervious is also a novice, but has been the complete opposite to her market rival. She’s not only been the best in her division, but has been as good as the boys, given her last run was very eye-catching. She looks a very mature novice and could go well.

Jeremys Flame looks a good thing for Gavin Cromwell. Having won her last start at Huntingdon, by some margin, this looks the ideal race since she didn’t quite cut it against the boys at Grade One level. Cromwell could well have placed this horse perfectly.

Out of all the Festival previews that I have heard, Magic Daze looks to be overpriced. And they’re right. Magic Daze was very keen to take a lead in last year’s Arkle. But since then, particularly on better ground, she’s been an outstanding improver, beating Dinoblue convincingly last time out in the Opera Hat. She has as bigger chance as anyone.

Sadly it doesn’t look as though we will be seeing Galia Des Liteaux at the Festival due to the ground, and Zambella could go here, but doesn’t look like a match for the Irish.

Verdict: Magic Daze; The price that she is, makes her look a fantastic bet. Plus she’s improved a lot this season, and there’s a lot to like at 10/1 with bet365.

Each-way pick: Elimay has never finished outside the top two of this race. She clearly likes the track and can go and grab a place if she wants at 25/1 with Ladbrokes.

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