2020 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle tips – Five out of five for Mullins?

The runners bunch up rounding the bend in the 2019 Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

The runners bunch up rounding the bend in the 2019 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Tips

In our latest Cheltenham Festival tips article we take a look through the betting for this Grade Two on day three of the Cheltenham Festival; read our 2020 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle tips for Thursday 12th March.

The youngest race at the Cheltenham Festival, the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle was a fairly controversial addition when it was introduced to the schedule in 2016. One who certainly hasn’t been complaining is Willie Mullins, who’s won all four editions with classy mares like Limini and Laurina. Even last year, where it seemed Mullins’ chances were bleak, Ireland’s Champion Trainer saddled the first two past the post, who carried odds of 50/1 and 66/1 respectively.

I’ve taken a look at all of the most likely runners in this year’s renewal and come up with my 2020 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle tips.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Tips – Magical Mullins

Lamarckise

The highest of Willie Mullins’ entrants in the current betting, despite the workmanlike nature of her debut victory at Limerick. Mullins’ has had to be patient with Lamarckise (6/1 William Hill), who moved to County Carlow in January of last year, and was only withdrawn from the Spring Juvenile the following month on account of the ground. Paul Townend’s mount needed every inch of that 21-furlong trip to get the win at Limerick. I fancy this trip may be a little on the short side.

Dolcita

Shot to the head of the Mares’ Novices’ betting after making a winning debut at Tramore in December. Dolcita (9/1 William Hill) barely broke sweat in sealing an eleven-length triumph that day. Willie Mullins’ charge then clashed with Minella Melody and Colreevy in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse, but Mark Walsh’s mount made a slight mistake three-out and finished a little one-paced back in third.

Colreevy

Colreevy (12/1 Coral) made the running that day, and was still on-terms with Minella Melody jumping the last. Danny Mullins’ mount made a telling mistake at the last though, allowing her rival to pull a length clear and Colreevy could never make up the ground. A Grade One winner on the flat last summer, Colreevy looked a strong stayer in the making when winning over 20-furlongs on heavy ground at Limerick. Like Lamarckise, I think her future lies over further trips. She could still be a player here though.

Floressa Silver Forever Newbury

Floressa (right) getting the better of Silver Forever (left) at Newbury.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Tips – Top Contenders

Minella Melody

The clear market leader, having beaten two of Willie Mullins’ top contenders in a Grade Three won by Mares’ Hurdle contender Honeysuckle the previous year. In-fact, there seem to be plenty of similarities between Minella Melody (3/1 William Hill) and her all-conquering stablemate. Both won a point-to-point, and both are unbeaten over obstacles under rules. Minella Melody certainly has a bright future over fences, but she brings the best two-mile hurdle form into this race. She looks to be the one to beat.

Floressa

Nicky Henderson lost leading contender, Maries Rock to injury last week. Thankfully, he still has Floressa (9/1 William Hill) in the running. Henderson’s filly won easily on her hurdles debut, before trading victories with Silver Forever at Newbury. Floressa then took on Lady Buttons in the Yorkshire Rose Hurdle, but was hampered at a crucial stage as she tried to mount her challenge and eventually finished a three-length third. Floressa clearly has talent and a smart turn of foot. She could be a popular Cheltenham Festival tip.

Daylight Katie

Somewhat of a forgotten horse in the market, as she hasn’t run since November. Daylight Katie (12/1 William Hill) impressed in bumpers last season, and cantered to an emphatic 26-length triumph on her first start over hurdles. Davy Russell was almost unseated as the favourite clattered the second-last in a Grade Three at Down Royal. Yet, Daylight Katie had enough about her to recover and eventually beat Jeremy’s Flame by just over a length.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Tips – Overlooked Outsiders

The Glancing Queen

Yet to be seen this season, so we have no idea how well The Glancing Queen (14/1 Unibet) jumps a hurdle. Alan King’s mare won nicely in the Mares’ Bumper at Aintree, having stayed on for sixth in the Champion Bumper here at Cheltenham. Although she has plenty of ability, it’s too risky backing a horse who we haven’t even seen jump an obstacle. She won’t be one of my 2020 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle tips.

Silver Forever

Got the better of Floressa on debut, when her rival made a telling mistake at the last. Silver Forever (14/1 William Hill) was then outpaced by her speedier counterpart and Jeremy’s Flame on her second start, but still ran well considering she was carrying a three-pound penalty. Paul Nicholls’ novice then outlined her potential as a stayer with a powerful triumph over more experienced Mares’ in a Listed race at Sandown, seeing out two-and-a-half-miles really well. She could enter the Mares’ Hurdle – read my preview of that Grade One here – on the back of that, but could still contend if dropped back in with her fellow novices.

Jeremys Flame

A good yard-stick in the Mares’ Novices’ division, having come up against several of the horses ahead of her in the market. Jeremy’s Flame (16/1 Unibet) then went on to finish second to Fiddlerontheroof in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, losing out by just six-lengths. Although she was never competitive in a handicap the last day, she’s the only runner in the field who brings Grade One form with them to Cheltenham. Gavin Cromwell’s mare shouldn’t be overlooked lightly and could be a popular Cheltenham Festival tip on day three.

Concertista

Lost out by just a neck in this race 12 months ago, on her first start for Willie Mullins. Concertista (20/1 Coral) has failed to win so far during her second season over hurdles, but ran on well to place third in a big mares’ handicap on her most recent run at the Dublin Racing Festival. This renewal looks much deeper than last year’s race, and I’d be surprised if she hit the frame again.

Yukon Lil

A 12-length winner on her opening hurdles start, Yukon Lil (20/1 Unibet) was vastly outclassed behind Minella Melody in that Grade Three. Mullins’ charge was the pick of Paul Townend that day, but was eventually beaten by around 15-lengths. Can’t see why she would be able to turn the tables on the market leaders, but as last season proved, no Willie Mullins’ entrant can be ruled out.

Santa Rossa

Enjoyed an impressive bumper campaign last season, winning a Grade Two before placing third and fifth at Aintree and Punchestown respectively. Santa Rossa (20/1 Coral) was then pitched in with the boys in a maiden at Fairyhouse, and ran an encouraging race to finish a four-length third. Dermot McLoughlin’s mare has plenty of big-race experience and jumped well at Fairyhouse. She could be one of the best each-way Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle tips.

Ard Abhainn

As could Ard Abhainn (25/1 Unibet), who was only beaten two-lengths by Minella Melody when they clashed in a Listed race at Punchestown earlier in the season. Gordon Elliott’s mare then claimed a Listed victory of her own, beating Rebel Og by three-lengths at Thurles. She’s a strong traveller who has the pace to triumph over the minimum distance. She’s another solid each-way proposition.

Colreevy Punchestown

Colreevy winning a Grade One bumper at Punchestown.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Tips – Verdict

Last year, in one of the most shocking finishes in the history of the Festival, horses carrying odds of 50/1, 66/1 and 40/1 filled the top three places. That would be enough to see many punters looking into the lower realms of the market to find one at a crazy price. However, that was a real mess of a race. They went along at snail’s pace for much of the race and the runners finished in a heap at the end, with just eleven-lengths separating the first 13 horses past the post.

There are much, much better horses in this year’s race, and the early pace is bound to be an honest one. So, the chances of that finish of roughie’s –  – being repeated is very low indeed.

While I think Minella Melody is a very good horse, I’m going to take a couple of punts on runners currently carrying double-figure price tags. The first being COLREEVY, who might have gotten the better of the market leader when they met at Fairyhouse, had it not been for that error at the last. You simply have to back at least one Willie Mullins’ runner in any Mares’ Novices’ tips article, and I think Colreevy has enough quality to contend.

The other mare I want to back is DAYLIGHT KATIE. I was so impressed with the way she and Davy Russell recovered from a terrible blunder at Down Royal, and beating Jeremy’s Flame on the back of that mistake was no mean feat. Daylight Katie beat a subsequent winner by 26-lengths without ever coming off the bridle on debut, and Elliott thinks enough of his seven-year-old to hand her an entry in the Supreme. At 12/1, Daylight Katie is the best of my 2020 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle tips.