Cheltenham Update: Mares’ Hurdle
Is Mullins on-course for the one-two?
We turn the spotlight on one of the highlights of Tuesday’s racing at the Cheltenham Festival, the Mares Hurdle, which is fast becoming a straight shoot-out in the antepost betting between Vroum Vroum Mag, Limini and Apple’s Jade.
It’ll take a bold bid to pick the winner of this race, but you can make your selections with confidence, as Coral are giving non-runner money back on all bets. That’s great peace of mind for punters, and allows them to take a shot at the value, without the worry that their selection may not line-up.
Vroum Vroum Mag favourite to defend
Willie Mullins’ star mare Vroum Vroum Mag has attracted plenty of attention in the run up to this year’s contest, and goes at the head of the betting with a week till the off. It’s hardly surprising to see the eight-year-old, with a record of 12 wins and a second from 13 starts, make most appeal either.
That one slight blot on her copybook so far came when beaten by Apple’s Jade, who is expected to re-oppose here, with a short-head the recorded distance that day. She went agonisingly close to the 100 per cent record, but the team will take plenty more confidence from her win in this race 12-months ago, beating Rock On The Moor home by 2 ¾ lengths, when going off as odds-on jolly, ridden by Ruby Walsh.
Vroum Vroum Mag was last seen stretching her legs in preparation for the festival with a win around Doncaster in a mares’ hurdle at the end of January. That was as tight as her handlers would’ve hoped to see however, fending off runner-up Midnight Jazz by a short-head. The jolly is 5/4 at present, and punters may want to take a bigger price in such a competitive contest.
Apple’s Jade looking to pull rank
Old rival Apple’s Jade, who already has the bragging rights over Vroum Vroum Mag going into this one, is a rather more attractive 9/4 in the rankings. The Gordon Elliott trained five-year-old comes with a mixed bag of results – four wins and four seconds from eight starts.
Her last win was that success over Vroum Vroum Mag, but she was beaten on her last appearance, in the Quevega Mares Hurdle in February at Punchestown. She went off as odds-on favourite that day, SP 2/5 to be exact, but let punters down, trailing race winner Limini home in convincing fashion. What was most notable about that effort wasn’t the defeat, but instead the finish, keeping on at the same pace when push came to shove, putting up little fight.
That result saw Limini win plenty of favour with punters, and Mullins’ chief support is a 6/4 second-favourite at the time of writing. It was a gutsy display to win at Punchestown, and Willie could well be on for the one-two here, but in which order?