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Sparrow looks capable of ruffling a few feathers in Mares’ Hurdle

John Quinn believes his star hurdler Cockney Sparrow has a big chance in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and there are reasons to believe she could be capable of thwarting the mighty Quevega’s attempt to win the race for the sixth time in succession.

The five-year-old is officially rated 20lb inferior to Willie Mullins’ mare, but her rating of 147 compares very favourably to those that have finished runner-up in the last two runnings of the race.

Kentford Grey Lady was beaten four lengths off a rating of 134 when runner-up to Quevega in 2012, and French raider Sirene D’Ainay ran off 126 when beaten just 1 1/2 lengths by her last year.

That suggests that Cockney Sparrow should be capable of serving it up to Quevega, and another big plus is that she has age on her side.

At the age of 10, Quevega is not going to improve any further. If anything she is going to regress, and it could be significant that her win last year was the least impressive of her five.
By stark contrast, Cockney Sparrow has a progressive profile and remains open to stacks of improvement.

The daughter of Cockney Rebel put up a smart performance for a novice when readily winning a 22-runner handicap hurdle at Aintree last season off a mark of 130, and after winning on her seasonal reappearance off 11lb higher put in a cracking effort when runner-up to My Tent Or Yours in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle over 2m.

She stayed on well that day to be beaten by three lengths without ever having the pace to challenge the winner, but finished in front of horses rated 151 and 155.

It was a run which suggested that a step up in trip to the 2m 4f of the Mares’ Hurdle would be well within her compass, and she was also sticking to the task well at Doncaster last time out when coming to grief two from home in a race won by the brilliant Annie Power.

Quinn has reported her none the worse for that tumble and bang on target for the Mares’ Hurdle, for which she is 7/1 with Coral.

He thinks she will run a “mighty race” if staying, and believes that good ground would further enhance her chances.

If she does stay, and her run style suggests she will, then she could well prove the main danger to the 8/11 favourite making it six on the bounce.