Mares Novice Hurdle Tips 2024 – Thursday 14th March 4.50pm at Cheltenham
For our Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle 2024 tips, we have asked Ciaran Murphy to run his eye over the Grade Two contest run over 2 miles 1 furlong on the New Course at Cheltenham.
As the name suggests, the race is restricted to mares and fillies which, before the start of the current season, had yet to win a race over hurdles; it was added to the Cheltenham Festival schedule in 2016.
Mares Novices Hurdle Preview
Believe it or not, The Mares Novice Hurdle is having its 9th running this year and while the first 5 trophies ended up in the same Closutton cabinet as this year’s 8 Dublin Racing Festical Grade 1s, the subsequent 3 runnings have seen Willie Mullins have just one placed runner.
Another interesting angle here is that the conditions of the race force winners of Class 1 races to carry a 5-pound penalty, with 3 pounds added if you have been the winner of a Class 2 contest. Now while this seems bizarre for a showcase Mares race at the Cheltenham Festival, the point of this article is to pick a winner, not debate the pros and cons of the programme book. For the purpose of the former, we will return to this point later on.
Analysing the previous 8 runnings does give some interesting trends:
- while the first 4 runners were aged 5, the last 4 have all been aged 6
- 5 winners have carried the previously mentioned 5 pound penalty to victory
- 6 of the winners were trained in Ireland (the last 2 have been English)
- 6 out of 8 (including the last 4 winners) have all had at least 3 previous runs that season
- 5 of the last 8 winners came from the top 3 in the betting.
The last point is particularly relevant in this case as the market is 12/1 bar 3 closely grouped favourites. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at each of their credentials.
Mares Novices Hurdle Main Contenders
The current Antepost favourite is Jade De Grugy, representing connections that warrant extreme respect in any mares contest; Kenny Alexander and Willie Mullins. She was a €230,000 purchase after winning a French bumper and her dam is an unraced half-sister to Cheltenham winner Sire De Grugy. On stable debut at Christmas, she won easily over 2m 4f (Heavy) at Leopardstown, showing that stamina is no concern. She followed this up by dropping back in trip to just over 2 miles for the Grade 1 Solerina at Fairyhouse, where she turned in a slick round of jumping and more importantly, a swift turn of foot to put the race to bed, achieving an RPR of 143 in the process. In the Cheltenham Festival 2024 Willie Mullins stable tour, he claimed that she “doesn’t seem to have any chinks in her armour” and it is hard to disagree. One note of caution would be that the last 2 winners of the Solerina who attempted to follow up in this race finished well down the field despite prominent positions in the betting. She also has had just 2 hurdle starts, a fact that the trends listed above would show as a concern.
Brighterdaysahead is an extremely well-bred mare, a half-sister to French Dynamite, Mighty and Caldwell Potter (now the most expensive jumps horse ever sold). Undefeated in 5 racecourse outings, she has won her 3 hurdle starts by a combined 27 lengths. She trounced an admittedly under-par Jetara by 45 lengths in Down Royal, and on her latest start, her jumping was much slicker than it had been on her 2 previous outings achieving an RPR figure of 142 and putting in the best time performance of the day. That win over 2m 5f again proves that the stamina test of the new course will hold no fears while her high cruising speed will be suited by the likely high tempo of the race.
Bidding to make it 3 English winners in a row is Dysart Enos, who will aim to give trainer Fergal O’Brien his first Cheltenham Festival winner. She sprung to the top of the market last year when she ran out the easy winner of the Grade 2 mares bumper at Aintree. She has been campaigned with this race in mind and while that means she won’t carry a penalty, 2 of her 3 runs have seen victories at odds of 1/7 and 1/9. It is hard to say if testing her at a higher level and risking the penalty would have been a better strategy but I would be concerned that she hasn’t been tested at this grade over hurdles. That being said, her sole meaningful start did come at the track and she did look very visually impressive, easily running away from a decent yardstick in Beat the Bat.
While I like to look for each way value in all races, the strength of the first 3 in the market significantly reduces the appeal for our Mares novices Hurdle betting tip this year. While one or even two may underperform, seeing the winner coming from elsewhere is almost impossible. Recent trainer comments suggest that the proximity of the Fairyhouse meeting seems to be tempting Fun Fun Fun and Jetara to skip the race and head to the Grade 1 Mares Novice there. Even if they were to turn up, ratings give them a lot to find. A small case can maybe be made for Queens Gamble. She did disappoint in last year’s Champion Bumper, but outside of that, her only defeat was at the hands of Dysart Enos (1 length), with the winner getting 4 pounds. She is now in the care of the impressive Harry Derham and while she also has to carry the 5 pound penalty, I could see her running well at 16/1.
Mares Novice Hurdle Betting Tip
Of the top 3, while I respect the talents of Dysart Enos and while she is getting weight from both rivals, Racing Post Ratings give her significantly more than that penalty to this to find (12/13 pounds). Also, while coming from a clearly likeable stable, it’s hard to ignore their lack of a festival winner to this point, especially when up against Mullins and Elliott. And in that battle, I am just about going to side with the Gigginstown Mare. Gordon Elliot has been effusive in his praise for her and indicated that due to a slight setback, he expects her to progress from her latest run. If that’s the case, Jade De Grugy will have to be very special to beat her and while that is not outside the bounds of possibility, at a slightly bigger price of 3/1, and with the extra run under her belt, I am backing Gordon to bag his first winner of the race and put the money back in the Sponsors pockets.
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Cheltenham Festival 2024 Tips
Get all our Cheltenham Festival 2024 tips and predictions for each race below, as well as a link to each preview and the key stats and trends for all 28 races between Tuesday 14th and Friday 17th March 2023.
Day 1 Tips
|1.30pm - Supreme Novices Hurdle
|Jeriko Du Reponet – 5/1
Tullyhill – 33/1 NRNB
|2.10pm - Arkle Chase
|Hunters Yarn - 9/1
Bllod Destiny (ew) - 20/1
|2.50pm - Ultima Handicap Chase
|Chianti Classico - 8/1
|3.30pm - Champion Hurdle
|4.10pm - Mares' Hurdle
|4.50pm - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
|5.30pm - National Hunt Chase
|Salvador Ziggy 16/1
Nick Rockett 10/1
Day 2 Tips
|1.30pm - Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle
|Gidleigh Park - 11/1
Predators Gold - 25/1
|2.10pm - Brown Advisory Novice Chase
|Fact To File - 5/1
Monty’s Star - 20/1 EW
|2.50pm - Coral Cup
|3.30pm - Queen Mother Champion Chase
|4.10pm - Cross Country Chase
|Foxy Jack - 12/1
|4.50pm - Grand Annual Chase
|5.30pm - Champion Bumper
|You Oughta Know - 9/1
The Yellow Clay - 14/1
Day 3 Tips
|1.30pm - Turners Novice Chase
|2.10pm - Pertemps Network Final
|Gowel Road - 25/1
|2.50pm - Ryanair Chase
|Stage Star - 7/1
Hitman - 80/1 (EW)
|3.30pm - Stayers Hurdle
|Teahupoo - 4/1
Noble Yeats - 12/1 (EW)
|4.10pm - Plate Handicap Chase
|Saint Roi - 33/1
|4.50pm - Mares Novice Hurdle
|Brighterdaysahead - 3/1
|5.30pm - Kim Muir Chase
Day 4 Tips
|1.30pm - Triumph Hurdle
|Majborough - 10/1 (ew NRNB)
Salvator Mundi - 25/1 (ew)
|2.10pm - County Hurdle
|King of Kingsfield - 7/1
|2.50pm - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
|Dancing City - 8/1
|3.30pm - Cheltenham Gold Cup
|4.10pm - Festival Challenge Cup Hunters Chase
|4.50pm - Paddy Power Mares Chase
|5.30pm - Martin Pipe Hurdle
|Better Days Ahead - 14/1