Unstoppable Quevega dominates Mares’ Hurdle trends
Willie Mullins’ Quevega had to work hard to land last season’s Mares’ Hurdle however she is staking a strong claim to be the best jumps mare since Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup winner Dawn Run in the 1980’s.
The newest non-handicap race at the Cheltenham Festival, the contest is named after former trainer David Nicholson who excelled with the training of female horses.
However they might have to rename it soon given the total dominance of Quevega, who has won the last five renewals of the two and a half mile race.
Given the title, it was no surprise that the betting for the inaugural running of the race was dominated by a number of local trainers, including Alan King’s Theatre Girl.
King was assistant trainer to Nicholson and has targeted this race, however the best that he has managed is fourth place, thanks to Over Sixty in 2009.
Although the Scot is a trainer back on the up once again, he and every other trainer in Europe faces a mammoth task to wrestle the prize away from Willie Mullins and the remarkable mare Quevega.
When it comes to finding the winner there have been no statistics or figures to adhere to, merely a blind following of Quevega.
Mullins knows his mare so well and has prepared her to perfection for March in a sparing manner.
In 2009 she had one prep run at Punchestown, however she has been making her seasonal return on her four subsequent Cheltenham victories.
The nine-year-old has only had 22 career starts, of which she has won 15, and she still looks to have time on her side as she bids to become the first horse ever to win six Cheltenham Festival races in successive seasons.
The only other winner of the race was Whiteoak, who sprang a 20/1 surprise in 2008.
The five-year-old was her trainer Donald McCain’s first success at the Festival and he has since had three more winners, most notably Cinders And Ashes who landed the Supreme Novices’ in 2012.
McCain is based in Cheshire but northern trainers have not fared well in this race, with no horses travelling down from the north placed in the subsequent renewals.
In the six times the race has been run, seven horses priced at 20/1 or bigger have won or been placed, so punters should not be afraid of finding a big-priced horse as they are certainly capable of hitting the frame.
Indeed, if we discount the six winners, then five of the 12 placed horses have returned at 28/1 or bigger, and six of those placed horses were also aged six.