The Mare's Hurdle is the final Grade 1 race of the the first day at the Cheltenham Festival. It is a race that was dominated by Quevega for six successive years and its mainly thanks to her why it has been upgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1 race.
It will take a brave man to bet against Willie Mullins winning this race again. He has shuffled his hand and now looks set to run Vroum Vroum Mag in this as he attempts to win it for the eighth year in a row.
Annie Power crashed out at the last hurdle in this race last year, that saved the bookies millions. Punters were refreshing their balances waiting for bookies to pay out as Annie Power put clear day light between her and her rivals approaching the last hurdle before falling.
Her fall was agony for punters but sheer relief for bookmakers.
Maybe Min, Douvan, Faugheen and Vroum Vroum Mag can do it this year.
VROUM VROUM MAG
I'd say it's a certainty that Annie Power now goes for the Champion Hurdle which leaves Willie Mullins searching for a Mares' Hurdle contender. He hasn't got to look very far because he's got Vroum Vroum Mag. She's been kept to racing against her own sex and although Mullins says that he isn't scared of taking on the boys with her, it makes sense to stick to it for the time being. "She's a very good mare", says Willie Mullins. She's the 4/5 favourite and should go very close to giving Willie Mullins his eighth successive victory in this race.
Harry Fry has tried her over fences this season and although she won first time out over the larger obstacles she unseated Noel Fehily over in Ireland after that and was then pulled up in heavy ground over 3m's at Wetherby last time out. It was probably a case of the ground being too soft for her over that trip. She got slightly outpaced around the final bend in this race last year before staying on really well up the hill to finish a close 3rd. The ground was good to soft, good in places and maybe Bitofapuzzle wants this trip with conditions a little softer. I don't think she wants heavy ground but we are unlikely to get that anyway.
With Annie Power's absence Polly Peachum must come into the equation. Officially rated 150 Nicky Henderson's mare will be a popular each way bet considering she hasn't finished out of the first three in her two appearances at Cheltenham. She is closely matched with Bitofapuzzle on last years form but would perhaps like genuine good ground. Won last time out on heavy but Nicky Henderson said after that race that "She hates this ground."