History will be made at Cheltenham as Quevega bids to make it a sixth consecutive win in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
And although at a slim price, it is a very easy bet as Willie Mullins bids to give one of his greatest ever servants even more glory.
Quevega didn’t win her fifth Mares’ title all that well last year. She looked to be struggling up the hill with two flights left at Cheltenham. However her class along with a masterful ride from Ruby Walsh saw Quevega grind down Sirene D'ainay (FR) and win fairly well in the end.
This was followed by a trouncing of Long Walk Hurdle winner Reve De Sivola, along with stablemate and Grade One winner Zaidpour at the Punchestown Festival over three miles, in her best performance of her career. Some say if World Hurdle winner Solwhit ran, the case may have been different, however I don’t think so.
Now bidding for a record sixth Cheltenham Festival win, Mullins has said she is ahead of schedule after a race course gallop at Punchestown.
The only thing that worries me with her is that she is without a prep run yet again. Her class prevailed last year; however she didn’t look all that good. You could say the Mares’ Hurdle was her prep run for Punchestown. Nonetheless, surely how ran she ran against the best three mile horses around is an indication Quevega is better with a run in hand.
Unfortunately for us racing fans, we don’t know where another Mullins possibility of Annie Power is going to race yet. She has looked a different class.
The unbeaten mare has won three times this season at a canter. I think that Willie Mullins is leaning towards the World Hurdle for her however and she will be an unlikely runner in this contest.
Glenns Melody is another Willie Mullins horse that could get involved for a place. She’s won two listed Mares’ races at Warwick this season. She’s looked like a work horse, which you need at Cheltenham, especially with the soft/heavy ground that is likely. It's been surprising that Mullins sent her over so often. I think that Mullins wanted her to be accustomed to the ground rather than in Ireland and he must regard her chances of a place fairly well.
Cockney Sparrow could be a nice each way bet. She has really progressed of late, winning a Handicap at the Grand National meeting last year. That’s been followed up with a listed victory in a Mares’ contest, seeing off useful horses like Prima Porta and Une Artiste. The John Quinn trained horse then put in her best effort of her career, finished three lengths behind Champion Hurdle fancy My Tent or Yours.
Unfortuntely, Cockney Sparrow took a disappointing fall when racing against Annie Power in a Mares’ race at Doncaster last time. That makes you question if she will come back the same horse or be a bit more tentative. I don’t think it’ll effect her too much and I like her chances of placing a lot.
Mickie was second in the Betfred Mobile Handicap over the weekend to Seeyouatmidnight. Although gaining weight, she had Cleeve Hurdle winner Celestial Halo behind a bakers dozen lengths. She stayed on very well in the race and on heavy ground; if she produces another run like that she could get involved.
Highland Retreat however had Mickie five lengths behind her in January at Ascot. The Harry Fry mare looked very good in doing so too. What I like about her is she has won on both good and heavy ground. She could make a nice ante-post bet as at least whichever way the weather goes ground will not be an issue. Too this, Harry Fry has been in tremendous form this season. He’s destined for big things and I like his chances here with Highland Retreat to place.
Unfortunately, as it seems Annie Power is unlikely to run, the rest will be running for places. Quevega is highly unlikely to run even without a prep run. Her class is far too much for the rest of the field and she will break records. Although it’s not a great price, she will make a lovely double or treble addition.
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