The penultimate race on St Patrick’s Day at the Cheltenham Festival is the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Named in honour of the great Dawn Run, who won the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup during her glittering career, this Grade Two was only introduced to the schedule in 2016 and it’s run over a 17-furlong trip.
In the latest instalment of my Cheltenham Festival tips series, I’ve looked through the betting for this year’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
and picked out my best bets.
2022 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Odds
|Allegorie De Vassy||4/1|
|Elle Est Belle||8/1|
2022 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Runners
Prior to last year’s renewal, Willie Mullins had a 100% record in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. What’s more, Ireland’s Champion Trainer saddled the 1-2 in 2019 and trained four of the first five across the line as Concertista won in 2020. More domination was expected last season, so it was quite a shock when none of Mullins’ four runners managed to finish in the top five – a failure Willie will be eager to rectify.
Allegorie De Vassy beat Brandy Love when they met in the recent Solerina Hurdle. Brandy Love leapt markedly out to her left, conceding plenty of ground to the winner at a number of obstacles. Yet, Paul Townend’s mount was only beaten three lengths and the bookmakers feel – given a more controlled round of jumping – she will be able to reverse that form with Allegorie De Vassy.
One-raced Dinoblue is another likely runner for Willie Mullins. As is surprise Royal Bond winner, Statuaire. Grangee also holds a Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle entry, but Mullins’ intimated during his stable tour that she could skip Cheltenham in favourite of the Grade One at Fairyhouse.
Gordon Elliott has taken Party Central down the handicap route this season, but her performance when winning the big mares’ handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival would warrant an outing in this Grade Two. Colm Murphy’s Impervious showed some strong form earlier in the season and she could bolster the Irish challenge. As could Mighty Blue, who stayed on from the rear to place third in this race 12 months ago.
Highest-placed of the home challengers is Dan Skelton’s Elle Est Belle, who stayed on to finish third in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago. Skelton’s mare won on her second hurdles start at Newbury, and has since registered creditable results against the geldings in the Kennel Gate and the Sidney Banks.
Sadly, Skelton said on Monday that Aintree will be Elle Est Belle’s priority, so it’s unlikely she will return to Cheltenham. Harry Fry has unbeaten duo Love Envoi and Lady Adare entered up, but quotes from connections after recent victories suggest neither will be heading to the Festival.
One British contender who will definitely run on day three of the Cheltenham Festival
is Nurse Susan
. Dan Skelton’s runner cantered to two easy victories earlier in the season, before being outbattled by Love Envoi on heavy ground at Lingfield. Nurse Susan could end up being the only British representative, unless Holly Hartingo and Speech Bubble take up their speculative entries.
2022 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Best Bet – Dinoblue
Let’s Dance and Limini both carried Rich Ricci’s colours and a penalty to victory in this race. Allegorie De Vassy will be attempting an identical feat - I just haven’t been that impressed with her jumping and I fancy she could get picked off by a slicker rival with a little more flat speed.
Brandy Love threw the Solerina away by jumping violently left. Mullins’ mare jumped much better on her first hurdles start at Naas and will relish the return to a left-handed track. While she seems like a worthy favourite, I fancy DINOBLUE could be the best of Willie Mullins’ runners.
Mullins’ mare made light of difficult ground conditions to secure a taking win on her racecourse debut at Fairyhouse. Considering that was her first start under any code, I was impressed with Paul Townend’s mount’s professionalism. Dinoblue needed little encouragement to pull 15-lengths clear of La Prima Donna and Mi Lighthouse – both of whom are entered in this race – and the time she set very good compared to the other races on the card.
With just one appearance under rules to her name, Dinoblue is one of the least experienced entrants in this race. Willie must have supreme confidence in her ability and, judging by his comments during his Cheltenham Festival stable tour
, this daughter of Doctor Dino has been impressing him on the gallops.
2022 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Value Bet – Say Goodbye
Party Central was impressive when winning the Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival – a race that produced two Cheltenham Festival winners 12 months ago. Second that day was stablemate SAY GOODBYE, who was held up out the back by Robbie Power and finished off her race every bit as well as the winner, crossing the line just a length-and-a-half adrift.
Say Goodbye is yet to win in four starts so far this season. Gordon Elliott’s mare was picked off by the vastly more experienced French Made on her first hurdles start, before finishing second to 137-rated Western Victory in a Listed race at Gowran Park in October. Jordan Gainford’s mount was then well-beaten behind Lunar Display at Wexford, but the ground was very heavy that day and Say Goodbye couldn’t see out that 20-furlong trip.
A strongly run race over 17 furlongs should suit this daughter of Getaway and the ground will likely be decent on St Patrick’s Day. Plenty of shrewdies fancy Party Central for this race. Yet, with a five-pound swing in the weights going in her favour, I see no reason why Say Goodbye can’t reverse that Dublin Racing Festival form and get involved here.