The Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle is one of the newest additions to the Cheltenham Festival, having only been introduced in 2016. It is a Grade 2 Hurdle Race run over a trip of 2 Miles 179 yards, and is part of the Thursday of the Festival, which also includes the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase.
Both Winners have been aged 5
Both Winners have been trained by Willie Mullins
Both Winners have been ridden by Ruby Walsh
Both Winners were owned by Susannah Richi
Both winners have been sent-off favourite
SP’s were returned at 8/11 and 11/8
Nicky Henderson trained 4-year-old who has really impressed on her first two starts. She beat the previously impressive Gumball by 17-lengths first time out, and then wasn’t given a hard race when quickening away from 3 rivals late on second time out. Those races were both trials for the Triumph Hurdle though and, as a 4-year-old, she has that alternative option. Nicky Henderson is also the leading trainer with 6 wins in the Triumph Hurdle. She will surely go off shorter than the current 11/2 if lining up here, but that is far from guaranteed.
Didn’t look anything special in bumpers, when she won her second start before only finishing tenth at the Aintree Grand National Meeting. However, she has been highly progressive this season, with 2 wins in novice company and 2 wins in handicap company. Probably needs to find further improvement, and it’s slightly concerning that she perhaps didn’t do better at Aintree last season, raising doubts as to whether she’s up to the cut and thrust of a big festival.
5-year-old trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Susannah Ricci, though she has yet to run for connections. She was bought after 3 winless runs in France. However, connections have a remarkable record for unearthing some of the best fillies and mares seen in England and Ireland, including Annie Power, Vroum Vroum Mag, and the two previous winners of this race Limini and Let’s Dance.
Nicky Henderson trained 5-year-old who has won 1 of her 2 starts since arriving at Seven Barrows, after winning once in France. In the first of those runs she was beaten 7-lengths by the useful Cap Soleil and, though she won her second start by the same margin, she was receiving plenty of weight from all her rivals that day. Improvement needed, but we’re unlikely to have seen the best of her.
Another Willie Mullins trained 4-year-old, and this one won her only start by 15 lengths. Expected to win, as she was sent-off at 1/4 that day, but she’s owned by Sullivan Bloodstock Limited, and not by Susannah Ricci.
Nicky Henderon has had horses placed third and fourth in the two previous runnings of this race but, as he tends to target the Triumph Hurdle, it may be that Apple’s Shakira takes up the Triumph Hurdle option. In the hope that’s the case, Salsaretta may be worth chancing at this stage. There’s a risk involved, as she’s yet to run for Willie Mullins, but it was a similar scenario with Limini last season, and she ended-up being sent-off at 8/11.