The Mares Hurdle, aka the Dave Nicholson's Mares Hurdle, is national hunt racing's most prestigious mares-only race. Covering a distance of 2 miles 4 furlongs, it features nine hurdles and is the final Grade 1 race run on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The Mares Hurdle is also one of the newer races at the Cheltenham Festival, with the inaugural race run in 2008. In the short time since then it has broken a long-standing Cheltenham Festival record with Quevega taking six consecutive race titles. This series of performances broke the five win record set by Golden Miller in the Gold Cup in 1936.
Mares Hurdle trends
The most notable trend in the Mares Hurdle since its introduction in 2008 is that the winner has tended to be ridden by Ruby Walsh, trained by Willie Mullins and named 'Quevega'.
Taking a step back and considering the three mares that have won the race since 2008, we do find one or two David Nicholson Mares Hurdle trends.
For instance the winner of the race has only once failed to win their prior race in the history of the Mares Hurdle, with Quevega producing a rare slip-up before taking her second Mares Hurdle title in 2010. It's also notable that no first-time winner has won a Graded race prior to taking the Mares Hurdle.
2016 Mares Hurdle field
With Quevaga happily retired from national hunt racing, our trends leave us somewhat empty handed as we comb the field for an in-form filly who has recently won a low-rated mares hurdles. This method of elimination leaves us with eight in-form mares in a 37 strong preliminary field. Of these only three look to have a genuine chance of winning the title.
Vroum Vroum Mag supplants Annie Power is the antepost favourite for the Mares Hurdle with the latter now headed for the Champion Hurdle. Like Annie Power she's not had much success against geldings, but a record of 9 wins from 10 starts over fences and hurdles is not to be quibbled with. Bookies have her around Evens, which looks about right if you don't mind the risk of an all-or-nothing bet.
Another mare who looks like she could have a say in the Mares Hurdle is Polly Peachum. She missed out on the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle title at Cheltenham last season by just a head, and since has taken two wins and a second place from three races. She doesn't look quite good enough for the win, but could get a place at 6/1.
Given how open this race has been in the post-Quevega era, Lilly Waugh offers some promise. She won over 20 furlongs at Cheltenham back in December and did so as part of a three race winning streak. A loss in her most recent race has impacted her price, but this was a 2nd place over 16 furlongs and she'll likely bounce back when returned to 20.