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Cheltenham 2023 Festival Preview – Mares Novices’ Hurdle (Andrew Mount)

Every day of February our top tipsters Andrew Mount and Daryl Carter will be previewing a race of the Cheltenham Festival 2023. Visit GG each day for a new preview from our top analysts.

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Thursday 4.50pm – Mares Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)

Key Stats & Trends


Willie Mullins won the first five runnings of this 2m1f contest (2016-2020) but his stranglehold was broken when Telmesomethinggirl scored for Henry De Bromhead in 2021. Last year, British trainers enjoyed a rare one-two in a Cheltenham festival novice hurdle with Harry Fry’s 15-2 shot Love Envoi beating Nicky Henderson’s 50-1 chance Ahorsewithnoname into second place.


Those who ran in maiden hurdle company last time out are 0-18, including Dinoblue who was only ninth when starting as the 11-8 favourite last year. The last three winners all prepped in a Grade 2 contest confined to mares.


We’ve had some huge-priced runners make the frame…

  • 2016 – Dusky Legend (2nd, 50-1)
  • 2018 – Champagne Lady (3rd, 80-1)
  • 2019 – Eglantine Du Seuil (won, 50-1), Concertista (2nd, 66-1)
  • 2020 – Rayna’s World (3rd, 100-1)
  • 2022 – Ahorsewithnoname (2nd, 50-1)

…and all the above had one thing in common – they were ridden patiently. Don’t be put off a big-priced fancy, especially if they look like being ridden to pick up the pieces rather than mixing it on the front end in the early stages.

The Main Contenders


LUCCIA maintained her 100% record when bolting up in a Listed novices’ hurdle at Exeter in mid-February and has now won her four starts by a combined margin of 40 lengths. She hasn’t beaten much – two of the horses who chased her him are now rated 124 and 125 – but she’s done everything impressively and it’s difficult to gauge the ceiling of her ability.


ASHROE DIAMOND, at 7-2 the shortest price of the Willie Mullins entries, jumped out to her left when denying Jetara in Grade 3 company at right-handed Fairyhouse last time and should be suited by Cheltenham. Her record left-handed reads 14113 (3-5), including a comfortable Grade 2 bumper success at Aintree last spring on her only run outside Ireland. Her record in mares’ races stands at 1411 (3-4), with the fourth placed by just half a length when 16-1 for a Grade 2 bumper at Leopardstown. 


Willie Mullins’ NIGHT AND DAY hacked up in a heavy-ground Clonmel maiden hurdle in January but looks priced-up based on who trains her, rather than what she achieved on the track that day. 


LOT OF JOY, yet another Willie Mullins-trained runner, was beaten into second place at odds of 4-11f and 6-5f on her first two hurdle start before opening her account when 1-7f for a Fairyhouse maiden. No horse has yet to win this Cheltenham contest on the back of a maiden hurdle run and she makes little appeal.


MAGICAL ZOE is unbeaten in three starts – a mares’ bumper, maiden hurdle and a Grade 3 mares’ novices’ hurdle at Down Royal. She started at 18-1 ahead of her latest outing, ran green and yet still won. She could have plenty more in the tank and the absence since early November might be on account of waiting for better ground. She makes the shortlist.

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YOU WEAR IT WELL failed to settle/ran green when beaten into second place in a Ludlow bumper on her debut in January of last year and has progressed rapidly since, landing four of her five subsequent starts and finishing second at 16-1 to Hermes Allen in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle in the other. She was very impressive in landing the 2m4f Grade 2 Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown – a race Love Envoi won before landing this contest 12 months ago – and the daughter of Midnight Legend seems to handle any going (untried on heavy). 


AHORSEWITHNONAME was beaten by just over one length when second at 50-1 in this race last year. She won on the Flat the next twice before her fifth in the Cesarewitch, though has something to prove after pulling up at Wincanton on Boxing Day where she reportedly bled from the nose.


JETARA chased home Ashroe Diamond at Fairyhouse in late January where the small field and soft going probably didn’t play to her strengths. She’s finished in the first three in six of her seven career starts and will be suited by the likely end-to-end gallop. She could get into the places.


The Gordon Elliott-trained HALKA DU TABERT was only third to Ashroe Diamond at Fairyhouse last time but didn’t look entirely happy on the right-handed track, stuttering into her hurdles and jumping out to her left on occasions. She’s two from two under Rules when racing left-handed and Cheltenham should suit.


LIBERTY DANCE, a stablemate of Halka Du Tabert, was undone by the steady early pace when fourth of 22 in the mares’ handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. The first three finishers were up with the pace throughout and the 7-2 shot fared best of those to come from midfield or further back. The left-handed track could also have been to blame, as she has jumped out to her right on occasions, and she might be one for Punchestown rather than Cheltenham.


POETIC MUSIC fared second best of the British-trained runners when a 33-1 sixth to Facile Vega in last season’s Champion Bumper but she has looked happiest on right-handed tracks since switched to hurdles.


Luccia is by the most obvious one but makes little appeal at the antepost quotes of 7/4. Ashroe Diamond, Magical Zoe, Halka Du Tabert and Jetara all have possibilities for Ireland but the vote goes to YOU WEAR IT WELL, impressive in Grade 2 company at Sandown last time – the same race that Love Envoi won before taking this contest 12 months ago.

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