David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle Betting Tips, Stats & History

The fifth race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival sees some of the finest mares compete over two and a half miles for this Grade 1 title. The winner will receive a trophy named in memory of David Nicholson who was a both a successful jockey and National Hunt trainer.

Race Info

Last year’s Mares’ Hurdle renewal saw just the nine runners, the smallest field since the race began in 2008. We’ve a healthier field this time with 15 mares set to battle it over 10 hurdles on Cheltenham’s Old Course.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Good to soft 2m 3f 200y Grade 1 £125,000 15 1/5 1-3

Mares’ Hurdle Betting Tips

Cheltenham, 16:10, Tuesday 12th March 2019

There has only been one surprise result in this race, the inaugural run in 2008 which was won by 20/1 shot Whiteoak. Since then there hasn’t been a single winner priced over 6/1.

Quevega always enjoyed her time in this race and the French-bred mare claimed victory on five consecutive occasions between 2009 and 2013. An incredible record which may never be matched.

No other race at the Cheltenham Festival has been so dominated by just one trainer. Willie Mullins has saddled the victor in nine of 11 renewals since the event was founded and Benie Des Dieux looks set to provide him with more success this Tuesday.

This race was one possibility for Apple’s Jade for this year’s Festival but Gordon Elliot instead decided to give her a try in the Champion Hurdle. The withdrawal of the ante-post favourite will have delighted Willie Mullins as now reigning champion Benie Des Dieux faces a far less obstructed path to victory.

The strong favourite stands a long way from the rest of the field in the betting. Second in line Limini is a fair way back at 11/2 for a race that has only ever seen one winner priced at odds of over 6/1.

Dieux to make it deux

Unlike most of the mares gunning for glory in this race, Benie Des Dieux has yet to feature this season. Lacking a run should not be concern though as five of Quevega’s six Mares’ Hurdles victories came on her season debut. Keeping Benie Des Dieux well-rested was always the plan ahead of Cheltenham and she’s reportedly looked in fine shape in the stables. Ruby Walsh believes the eight-year-old is his best Festival ride while Mullins believes his best chance of success lie with the mare.

Limini past her prime

Limini is another one of the mares that has handed Mullins plenty of joy but it’s been some time since the chestnut mare won a high-profile event. She’s without a single win over hurdles this season, her only taste of victory coming during a flat handicap at Leopardstown. While she did perform reasonably well at Gowran Park alongside Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy in January, it was a particularly slow race and four furlongs further than this Tuesday’s test. There’s nothing to suggest that the once 154-rated horse has stopped her decline so don’t expect her to rekindle the form old here.

Kirby’s hand forced

Lady Buttons is a credible 9/1 outsider for this race but trainer Philip Kirby would have preferred her elsewhere at the Festival. Speaking last week, the Catterick based trainer said he wanted his mare in the Champion Chase but was put off by the inclusion of Altior. Strong rivals also made him swerve the Champion Hurdle despite two miles being the ideal distance for his horse. The Mares’ Hurdle has been selected simply because it’s the most winnable but even this is a “massive ask” especially with regular jockey Adam Nicol out injured.

Final Verdict: Benie Des Dieux to win

Benie Des Dieux narrowly won this race 12 months ago but less muddy conditions combined with a weaker field should see able to ease up a little this time. Her odds aren’t overly generous but given her trainer’s record in this race, it would be fair to consider her as one of the Festival’s bankers.

What happens behind Benie Des Dieux is anyone’s guess. There’s no standout candidate for a placed finish so our advice would be to avoid any each way bets and put all your faith in the favourite.

Recent Winners

2019 Roksana 10/1 Dan Skelton Harry Skelton
2018 Benie Des Dieux 9/2 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2017 Apple’s Jade 7/2 Gordon Elliot Bryan Cooper
2016 Vroum Vroum Mag 4/6 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2015 Glens Melody 6/1 Willie Mullins Paul Townend
2014 Quevega 8/11 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2013 Quevega 8/11 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2012 Quevega 4/7 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2011 Quevega 5/6 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2010 Quevega 6/4 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh

About the Mares’ Hurdle: First of the Female Only Festival Contests

Close Up of Bay Horse with Dark Mane

The Cheltenham Festival is a British sporting institution. It’s been attracting racing fans to Prestbury Park since 1860 and continues to grow in popularity thanks to the organisers’ desire to never rest on their laurels. The desire for continual improvement saw the addition of a fourth day at the Festival which, in turn, saw the creation of several races in the years that followed.

The Mares’ Hurdle is one of those which became part of the Cheltenham Festival in that time. This 2 mile 4 furlong race, which is open to four year old mares and older, was inaugurated in 2008 when it was named after the popular, late former jockey and trainer, David Nicholson, who had died two years previous. It’s still registered as the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle but has been officially known as the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle since 2012 when that company took on sponsorship.

The name is not the only thing to change about the Mares’ Hurdle since its introduction. Having been initially introduced as a Grade 2 race, it was promoted to Grade 1 level in 2015. The Mares’ Hurdle has also switched from the last day of the Festival to the first and therefore from Cheltenham’s New Course to the Old Course.

Queen Quevega Dominates

The relatively unheralded Whiteoak won the first Mares’ Hurdle but from then on it was all about one horse - Quevaga. The wonder-mare won this race an incredible six years in a row. The Willie Mullins-trained French mare was accompanied each time by Ruby Walsh.

Chart Showing Quevega's Career Race Wins

Younger mares have a better record than older ones which makes Quevaga’s wins from five to 10 years of age all the more impressive.

Mullins the Man to Beat

Mullins and Walsh teamed up for further Mares’ Hurdles wins with Vroum Vroum Mag and Benie Des Dieux, whilst Annie Power’s failure in 2015 was one of the biggest shocks of that year’s Festival (Mullins still trained the winner that year as Glens Melody made the most of the favourite’s late fall).

Chart Showing the Winning Trainers of the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle

Mullins’ domination of the Mares’ Hurdle could well go on for some time but other trainers with big reputations including Gordon Elliott, Nicky Henderson and Harry Fry regularly target their best mares for this big prize. With Mullins boasting nine wins from the first 11 renewals of this great race the rest have some serious catching up to do though.

Runners' Options Often Left Open

Grass Direction Arrows

As the Mares’ Hurdle comes on the first day of the Cheltenham week, it’s one of those races which attracts entries from horses with multiple Festival options. This means the ante post betting can be a little quiet, with bettors unsure if their fancies will take up their opening day engagement.

As punters may choose to keep their powder dry, the bookies do offer some tempting options in the early betting so it can be worth taking a speculative punt or two even before the final line up is confirmed. Another thing to consider is that the lack of a novices’ chase for mares means some international horses who have been competing over fences will often be reverted to hurdles for a crack at the winner’s prize which exceeded £70,000 in 2019.

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