2021 Mares Hurdle Tips – Vintage Race In Store If Market Leaders Show Up

Honeysuckle gets up to win the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Honeysuckle gets up to win the Irish Champion Hurdle.

2021 Mares Hurdle Tips

He’s still going strong. Daniel Overall is has churned over theform and analysed every runner in the 2021 Mares Hurdle. There may be no Quevega or Honeysuckle this year but there is still a winner to bo found on Cheltenham Festival Day 1.

2021 Mares Hurdle overview

After Donald McCain won the inaugural running of the Mares’ Hurdle in 2008 with Whiteoak, Willie Mullins made the race his own, winning the next nine renewals; Quevega etched her name into history by becoming the first horse to win six times at the Cheltenham Festival, with all six victories coming in this race from 2009-2014.

In recent renewals, the Closutton trainer’s vice-like grip on the race has eased slightly with three of the last four renewals going elsewhere. Despite that, his runners are entitled to the utmost respect. From 24 runners in 13 renewals, he’s had 9 winners with a further 7 hitting the frame; this year, he has both a new and old contender to challenge the incumbent champion.

Looking Back at Last Year

Last season’s clash between Honeysuckle and Benie Des Dieux was an eagerly anticipated one and it did not disappoint. Having never run at Cheltenham before, Honeysuckle came into the race as the underdog despite her perfect record under rules, with the proven Benie Des Dieux going off a 4/6 favourite. As the race begun to unfold, Rachael Blackmore was given a dream run through on the inside on Honeysuckle while Paul Townend was forced wide. That move proved decisive, with Honeysuckle gamely holding on to record a ½ length victory.

An Irish Champion Hurdle winner, potentially a dual winner after this piece is published, her speed won the day against Benie’s proven stamina and that innate pace means that she could well run in the Champion Hurdle as opposed to the Mares’. Connections have stated that a decision will be made after her run at the Dublin Racing Festival; a race we eagerly await with a view to Cheltenham.

Like Honeysuckle, Benie Des Dieux has other potential options at the Festival. Two from two when running over three miles and further, including an emphatic victory in last season’s Galmoy Hurdle, the Stayers’ Hurdle will surely be under consideration. This year’s renewal looks strong, but it might be that she needs a strong test of stamina to be seen at best these days.

The addition of the Mares’ Chase has presented another alternative for Benie; three from three over fences, she’s a great jumper but she hasn’t raced over the larger obstacles since February 2018. Willie was quoted as saying “The Mares’ Chase is a target I’ve had in mind for her”, but he followed that up with “we might have old business to attend to from last year”. With that opaque statement in mind, options remain open and plans may well revolve around the where the opposition and her stablemates go.

A New Era of Mullins Mares?

Concertista maintained her trainer’s 100% record in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle last season with an emphatic 12-length victory having finished second in the 2019 renewal on her first start for the yard. 

Impressive in two starts this season, beating Minella Melody on both occasions, she’s a mare on the upgrade there could still be more to come. Like Honeysuckle, Concertista has an entry in the Champion Hurdle but the Mares’ does seem the likely target.  

Willie Mullins has entered six mares in total for this race, most of whom are far from certain to turn up here. Elimay chased home Allaho over fences when last seen and is more likely to head to the Mares’ Chase. Great White Shark (25/1) enjoyed a fruitful 2020; third in the Martin Pipe, her year culminated in an impressive victory in the Cesarewitch. Pulled up in a heavy ground Galmoy, the Stayers’ Hurdle was mooted as a potential target for her prior to that disappointing effort. A return to better ground will help, and this strong travelling grey would have place claims here if some of the market leaders were to run elsewhere.

My Sister Sarah (40/1) is a useful mare but was comfortably beaten by Concertista last time out. The final entrant is Robin De Carlow, who was last seen beating Put The Kettle On over fences in October 2019. Her wellbeing needs to be taken on trust but being entered here and in the Mares’ Chase is encouraging. She might be sneaking under the radar, while it wouldn’t be surprising to see her entered in some of the handicaps given her versatility. 

One notable exclusion from the entries was last year’s Triumph winner, Burning Victory. This race was highlighted as the main target at the start of the reason but she has been conspicuous by her absence this term and it may be that we won’t see her again until next season.

Others to Consider

At present, the ante-post market for this race is murky at best. Even the market leaders aren’t certain to turn up, let alone those at bigger prices. 

Roksana has been impressive over three miles this season, winning a couple of Grade 2’s as well as running a great race behind Thyme Hill and Paisley Park in the Long Walk. With that in mind, the Stayers’ Hurdle remains a viable option for Dan Skelton’s admirable mare but recent market moves seem to indicate that connections are looking to this race instead. The (fortunate) 2019 winner seems as good as ever and she warrants respect. 

Nicky Henderson has a trio of entrants, including last year’s Coral Cup winner, Dame De Compagnie (11/1). She made an encouraging start to her chasing career at Ayr and she is entered in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. With that in mind, she’s unlikely to run here. 

Floressa (33/1) was well beaten in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle last term but did win the Gerry Fielden on her seasonal reappearance. Well beaten in the by Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle, she looks ready for a step up in trip. Nicky Henderson also has Verdana Blue (14/1) entered here; a classy mare, she hasn’t been at her best this term but she’d still be an each-way player here, although she’s been well touted for the County Hurdle.

Minella Melody (28/1) has chased Concertista home on both occasions the pair have met this season, getting 2lbs from that rival. A well beaten favourite in last season’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, it’s hard to see her reversing the form with Concertista on that evidence. 

Mares Hurdle Big-Race Verdict

A race currently shrouded in doubt over who will line up, it’s hard to knock the achievements of Honeysuckle. A perfect nine from nine under rules and proven at the track, she sets the standard and seems to be a likely runner unless connections are tempted by the lure of the Champion Hurdle.

Concertista’s rise through the ranks has been impressive; she has to improve again to reach Honeysuckle’s level, but she’s going the right way and further progress is likely especially given her trainer’s phenomenal record with mares. Her improvement leaves Benie Des Dieux’s participation in doubt. It would be a tremendous clash if all three lined up and that scenario isn’t impossible; Willie Mullins isn’t afraid to run multiple high-class mares here, as we saw with Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag in 2017.

Roksana’s participation would add more depth to the race but perhaps her best chance of a second Grade 1 victory will come at Aintree.