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Top 10: Mares to win at the Cheltenham Festival

The greatest female equine athletes to reign victorious at jump racing’s biggest event

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Race mare Annie Power and Ruby Walsh jump the last hurdle in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2016 at Cheltenham Racecourse

Following the introduction of the new Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase to the Cheltenham Festival, we review some of the high class female equine participants to have graced Prestbury Park during March’s showcase.

Reflect on some fantastic memories given to us by some superstar mares in Gloucestershire up and down the years.

How many do you recognise?

Take a read.

QUEVEGA | Robin Des Champs x Vega IV

If she’s not the Queen of Cheltenham, we’re not quite sure who is.

A six-time winner of the Mares’ Hurdle, she is the most decorated Cheltenham Festival winner for a single race, overtaking Golden Miller who had recorded five Gold Cup successes.

Landing her first in 2009, she won every edition of the the-then Grade 2 contest until 2014 under pilot Ruby Walsh on every occasion.

Willie Mullins can brag about a number of heroines, but she will likely have a place high on the list.

Class.

APPLE’S JADE | Saddler Maker x Apple’s For Ever

Perhaps remembered for being involved in one of the greatest three-way tussles that Cheltenham Racecourse has ever seen.

Second in the Triumph Hurdle as a four-year-old, the Gigginstown mare returned twelve months later representing Gordon Elliot having previously been trained by Willie Mullins.

And she would prove to be the rose between two Closutton thorns, downing the Rich Ricci owned pair Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini in a thrilling Mares’ Hurdle in 2017 under Bryan Cooper.

An 11-time Grade 1 winner, connections brought her career to a halt after her efforts in the Stayers’ last year.

Legend.

DAWN RUN | Sir Tristram x Strong Queen

Surely the most recognisable and successful race mare in National Hunt history, she remains the only horse in history to record the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup double – unless Al Boum Photo fancies a crack at the former in 2021, of course.

Trained by Paddy Mullins, her position at the top of the crop in the female racing world is unlikely to be shaken any time soon.

Racegoers are greeted by her statue at the Home Of Jumps Racing on every raceday, where she stands just opposite the great Arkle.

Not bad company to be in, is it?

Irreplaceable.

HONEYSUCKLE | Sulamani x First Royal

Unbeaten in all starts under rules and point-to-pointing, the Henry de Bromhead stable-star appears set for a crack at the Champion Hurdle in 2021 as opposed to defending her Mares’ Hurdle crown.

Talk about titanic battles, it was some duel with Benie Des Dieux on the Festival’s opening day last March when the lesser fancied of the duo stole the spoils.

Henry de Bromhead’s Honeysuckle won at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and is unbeaten in all career starts to date

Since then, she has won twice in preparation for her return to Gloucestershire from across the Irish Sea where she will partner the widely popular Rachael Blackmore once again.

Can she see off our next mentioned reigning defendant?

Winner.

EPATANTE | No Risk At All x Kadjara

But not giving her crown up without a fight will be Nicky Henderson’s speed demon, who saw off all-comers in the Champion Hurdle last season.

Having won the Christmas Hurdle, the JP McManus owned six-year-old was a 2/1 fancy to register a Grade One double at Cheltenham on her next start and she duly obliged.

She was superb when landing the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on her seasonal debut and while it did not quite go to plan at Kempton Park next time out, overlook her at your peril.

Can she emulate Buveur D’Air and be crowned the best hurdler in the division for a second successive year?

Fast.

ANNIE POWER | Shirocco x Anno Luce

A near-swear word for some, many cast their mind to her last-flight tumble in before they remember her Champion Hurdle success the year after in 2016.

After Willie Mullins had enjoyed a spectacular three-timer on 2015’s opening day, the normally reliable mare was expected to complete a memorable quartet of victories for Ruby Walsh.

Having finished second in the Stayers’ Hurdle the season prior, she was sent off a 1/2 shot to dismantle the field in front of her.

Heading to the last, it looked as though that would be the case, but she took a chance, dived at the final hurdle and crashed out of the race to the desperation and despair of her hordes of backers.

But redemption, and a first Festival victory, would come her way 52 long awaited weeks later when she was the super-sub for the fellow owned and trained, Faugheen.

Persistent.

PUT THE KETTLE ON | Stowaway x Name For Fame

The Arkle star of 2020.

Having won the trial five months earlier, Henry de Bromhead’s lesser stable fancy to the antepost favourite Notebook was 16/1 to reign supreme at the head of the two mile novice chasers.

This was despite a record of four wins from five chases, with her only defeat arriving at a longer trip.

Put The Kettle on has won all three of her starts at Cheltenham Racecourse

Under Aidan Coleman, though, the unexposed youngster jumped her rivals into submission with a devastating front running performance to spring an early Festival surprise in its second race.

She has since won the Shloer Chase, taking her course-and-distance record at Cheltenham to a perfect three from three, before running well behind Champion Chase favourite Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown.

Heart.

CONCERTISTA | Nathaniel x Zagzig

Having failed to shed her maiden tag as a novice, it was two runs in the Dawn Run for another one of Willie Mullins’ mares.

But it was to be second time lucky in 2020 as the chestnut mare blitzed the field by 12 lengths under Daryl Jacob to keep her trainers unbeaten record in the race in-tact.

In open company, she has certainly not failed to deliver, winning her two starts this campaign impressively at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, respectively.

Based on those appearances, she is very much in the ‘could be anything’ category.

Will we see a head-to-head with Honeysuckle in four weeks time?

Unsung.

ANAGLOGS DAUGHTER | Above Suspicion x Anaglog

Certainly the greatest of the late Ferdy Murphy’s 10 Festival winners was when his superstar mare won the Arkle on what was remarkably her 86th career start.

A winner of the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown earlier in 1980, she romped home by 20 lengths up the famous hill to destroy the fellow field of hopefuls.

She would finish second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase the year after, and also picked up the silver medal in the King George VI Chase.

Tough.

FLAKEY DOVE | Oats x Shadey Dove

The last mare to win the Champion Hurdle before Annie Power’s success, Richard Price’s representative got her moment in the sun in the 1994 edition.

Under Mark Dwyer, who was riding her for the first time, she landed the prestigious race at 9/1 to follow up her success in the Berkshire Hurdle previously.

She beat market favourite Oh So Risky, having been a familiar face to National Hunt fans since 1990.

A month later, she would win at Haydock Park in what would be her final career success, having won 14 of her 44 outings.

Game.

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