2021 Cheltenham Festival – Mullins Dominance Can Be Ended In Mares Novice Hurdle
2021 Mares Novice Hurdle Tips
One of the newer races is on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival and is the latest contest to be looked at by Lewis Tomlinson, Can he find anyone to break Willie Mullins’ dominance
Mares Novice Hurdle Overview
The Daylesford Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, or the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, as it is registered, is one of the Festival’s newest additions, having joined the programme in 2016. “Willie’s Race” would probably be more fitting than either of the official names, though; the Master of Closutton is a perfect five-out-of-five in this event, although notably neither of his most recent winners came with the apparent first string.
Key contenders – Hook Up
This season’s renewal looks far from clear-cut, with the current three-way scrap for favouritism concerning Mullins’ Hook Up (6-1), alongside Peter Fahey’s Royal Kahala (6-1) and the Jonathan Sweeney-trained Roseys Hollow (6-1). It’s actually fairly easy to break the formlines between the trio down in the most reductionist manner- Roseys Hollow beat Royal Kahala last time out, and in turn, Royal Kahala had already beaten Hook Up earlier in the season. If only things were that simple, though.
Hook Up has been to the Festival before- she was set a stern task when pitched into the Triumph last season and came home in eleventh- and put up a career-best performance when chasing home Appreciate It in fourth at the Dublin Racing Festival earlier in the month.
Prior to that, though, she had been beaten fair-and-square by Royal Kahala at Fairyhouse, and there are several different ways that form can be viewed.
Anyone in the Hook Up camp could argue that Hook Up had vastly improved in the month between Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, and therefore should be expected to turn the tables on Royal Kahala when they meet again, or the defeat was a simple underperformance on the day.
Hook Up’s performance against the boys in the Chanelle Pharma is the easiest showing in the division for anyone to put an accurate figure on, but I’m not sure how useful it is when trying to measure the corresponding form of Royal Kahala and Roseys Hollow, because I think we saw a more potent version of the Mullins’ mare last time.
Royal Kahala’s fans could claim, quite fairly, that Hook Up had no obvious excuses when beaten by her in January and that the 7lb swing at the weights she now gets from Roseys Hollow will be enough to swing the balance back in her favour. Without that defeat, it would be hard to find a stone to throw at Royal Kahala and she’d made clear progression from run to run before that. Her overall body of form is solid, and she’s very hard to knock out of the first three in my opinion.
The Solerina was the best mares’ novice hurdle we’ve seen this season, so the winner, Roseys Hollow, should be expected to go close again here. Roseys Hollow didn’t enter that race with the level of form or reputation of Royal Kahala, or the third, Gauloise (8-1) but there was visually little fluke about the upset.
She showed smart form last season, when third behind Jon Snow and Fakeira at Leopardstown, and if putting a line through her quiet reappearance this campaign at Naas, it’s very hard to knock any of her efforts to date. As mentioned earlier, though, there is a 7lb reversal between herself and Royal Kahala this time, so better would be needed from Roseys Hollow again.
I’m not overly enamoured by the shortest-priced British contender, The Glancing Queen (8-1), who I was a fan of in bumpers but I feel isn’t particularly progressing over hurdles and lacks the potential of some of her Irish rivals here.
With the race having no hotpot banker, it’s the sort of affair that might be worth looking down the market for some each-way value within, and I can make the case for last year’s Champion Bumper third Queens Brook at a best price of 25-1. Though getting off to a winning start at Fairyhouse, Gordon Elliott’s mare probably hasn’t quite lived up to pre-season expectations, having been turned over at short odds when sent for home too soon at Down Royal on her next start.
She wasn’t able to cope with Concertista or Minella Melody last time ou, but I’d be shocked if there was anything of that pair’s calibre in here, and given Queens Brook has prior, strong Festival form, I think there’s less forgiving of Queens Brook to do than her price suggests.
Mares Novice Hurdle Big-Race Verdict
VERDIA really tricky renewal, with several interlinking formlines and no real stand-out performance in the division as of yet. ROYAL KAHALA looks the most solid option, having cosily beaten Hook Up earlier in the season and being better off the weights Roseys Hollow, to whom she lost her unbeaten hurdles record in the Solerina. Queens Brook has faltered somewhat in her novice season, but far from the degree her top price suggests and the production of her best form would see her right in the mix here.