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Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle betting tips: 7/2 shot to bloom at the Cheltenham Festival

A view of the Mares attacking the hill at Cheltenham. (credit: GettyImages)

Our expert takes a look through the betting for this Grade Two at the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his tips.


The Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle has been a controversial addition to the Cheltenham Festival, since it was added to the St Patrick’s Day card four years ago. The race has always produced an exciting conclusion - baring Laurina’s runaway triumph 12 months ago - but there are many who feel the entrants should have to take their chance in either the Supreme or the Ballymore, leaving a gap in the schedule for a more deserving race.

I, personally, have always enjoyed the Mares’ Novices’ and we look set for an excellent edition in 2019. Nicky Henderson’s Epatante (5/2 Ladbrokes) currently leads the way in the betting, having made a blemish-free start to life over hurdles.

A winner of a Grade Two flat race during her final season in France, Henderson waited a whole year to blood his recruit. Two comfortable victories have followed, the most recent of which came around Exeter, where Epatante jumped beautifully before cruising home to claim a four-length victory without ever coming off the bridle.

Paul Nicholls will also fancy his chances this year, with Posh Trish travelling to Cheltenham with strong claims to the crown. Posh Trish (8/1 William Hill) has been one of my most successful tracker horses this term, winning four of her five starts, collecting two Listed prizes along the way. Nicholls’ mare beat Lust For Glory (20/1 Betfair) comfortably at Newbury, but was pushed for a long way at Taunton by Indefatigable (25/1 Ladbrokes), who has come out and placed second to Lady Buttons in another mares contest since.

Lust For Glory has some ground to make up on Posh Trish, but she bounced back from that loss with a good win up at Newcastle and could join stablemate Epatante in the final field. Indefatigable sits much further down the betting than rival Posh Trish, but she looked very good when giving Lady Buttons a scare and Paul Webber’s mare has the quality to out-run her odds.

Henry de Bromhead spearheads Ireland’s challenge in this year’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, with two of his top mares occupying spots at the top of the market. Honeysuckle (7/2 Ladbrokes) leapt to the head of the Cheltenham betting following an excellent Grade Three triumph last time out and she could have the perfect blend of quality and staying power to triumph in this taxing race.

Unlike Honeysuckle, who has been kept within her own sex, Sinoria (12/1 William Hill) has secured some fine results running against the boys. Under an excellent ride from Rachael Blackmore, De Bromhead’s six-year-old fought back to beat Chosen Mate to a Listed prize on her last start. Sinoria, however, shares an owner with Honeysuckle and Keith Alexander seems keen to separate his top mares – meaning Sinoria could head to either the Ballymore or the Martin Pipe.

It seems strange that I’m 500 words into this preview and haven’t mentioned Willie Mullins’ name once. Ireland’s Champion Trainer has dominated the mares’ ranks at Cheltenham, winning most of the Mares’ Hurdle and all three Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle we’ve had thus far. Limini, Let’s Dance and Laurina were all backed into favouritism before claiming victory. It’s highly unlikely anything like that will happen in 2019, but Mullins still travels to Cheltenham with some dangerous novices in tow.

Sancta Simona (16/1 William Hill) travelled to Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival on the back of a smart Grade Three triumph and went off as a 5/2 shot in the Future Champions Novices’ Hurdle. Stablemate Aramon had too much pace down the home straight for any of his Grade One rivals, but Sancta Simona ran a fine race to claim second and should be much more comfortable back within her own sex.

My Sister Sarah (20/1 Ladbrokes) has winning form over further trips than this, which can be important at Cheltenham, but will have to find an extra gear based on her workmanlike win at Fairyhouse last time out. Salsaretta (20/1 William Hill) has plenty of experience and a good victory over Supreme contender, Felix Desjy next to her name. However, she was struggling when falling in this race last year, on soft ground which should have been right up her street.

Queenohearts (20/1 Ladbrokes) has battled hard for two victories over Danse Idol in recent starts and could offer some each-way value if the ground comes up very soft. Allez Dance (33/1 Betfair) won well on her only start on Irish soil for Willie Mullins and could be the unknown quantity in the race, but I’d be more comfortable looking towards the proven horses near the head of the betting to find the victor.


Epatante has secured both of her victories below Class One level, meaning she will be gaining five pounds on many of her rivals. That allowance, however, has not stopped the previous three champions from claiming the victory and I’d prefer to back a rival who has tested themselves as a higher level.

Willie Mullins’ record with mares cannot be ignored and Sancta Simona offers plenty of each-way value. Posh Trish looks the best of the British and won well at Cheltenham during her bumper season. Nicholls’ mare has an excellent chance, but I feel the front-runner may be vulnerable to a strong closer and HONEYSUCKLE gets the nod.

After beating 130-rated Annie Mc by 15 lengths in a point-to-point, Honeysuckle was similarly impressive on her first start under rules, beating future winner Moskovite (25/1 Ladbrokes) over two-and-a-half-miles with the minimum of fuss. Rachael Blackmore had to work harder than expected in pushing her mount to victory in a Listed two-miler. Honeysuckle then stepped back up in trip and looked imperious in the Solerina, cruising over the line to beat some capable opponents without breaking too much of a sweat.

They’re sure to go off at a strong gallop in this year’s Mares’ Novices’, which will suit a stayer like Honeysuckle. She’s proven herself at Graded level and in large field events, so the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle will hold no fears for Henry De Bromhead’s talented five-year-old.


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Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle betting tips: 7/2 shot to bloom at the Cheltenham Festival

Our expert takes a look through the betting for this Grade Two at the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his tips on Thursday 14th March.

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