Brighterdaysahead pictured with winning connections
Brighterdaysahead pictured with winning connections

Cheltenham Festival update: Spotlight on Mares' Novices' Hurdle

Matt Brocklebank continues the Sunday Service series with a look at the Mares' Novices' Hurdle following Sunday's developments in Britain and Ireland.

A tale of two mares on Sunday as races at Navan and Exeter looked to throw up good clues for the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.

First up, the Gordon Elliott-trained Brighterdaysahead who maintained her unbeaten record with a 12-length win over Pastorale in the Listed Apple’s Jade Mares Novice Hurdle, run over two miles and five furlongs, on ground officially described as soft to heavy.

This wasn’t a strong Listed race by any stretch of the imagination, but the odds-on favourite couldn’t do any more than put them away with consummate ease, travelling strongly just off Butty O’Brien and stablemate Mel Monroe before popping two-out and immediately putting daylight between herself and the rest.

A half-sister to Mighty Potter, French Dynamite and Caldwell Potter – who left the yard only last week – among others, Brighterdaysahead clearly stays this longer trip well but had won her maiden over two miles at Thurles in October and backed that up with an impressive Grade 3 win over 17 furlongs at Down Royal the following month.

She no doubt means a lot to Elliott and the Gigginstown House team, and looks highly likely to live up to her name. While a drop back to two miles on spring ground at Cheltenham will ask different questions of her, the mares’ programme in Ireland almost dictates these horses run over a variety of trips throughout the year and the current 5/2 market leader, Willie Mullins’ Jade De Grugy, will also be dropping in trip at the Festival having won over two miles four, and two miles two, on her pair of outings at Leopardstown and Fairyhouse respectively around the turn of the year.

Like Jade De Grugy, Brighterdaysahead will carry the full 5lb extra at Cheltenham, which hasn’t stopped the past two winners in Love Envoi and You Wear It Well incidentally, whereas third-favourite Dysart Enos, who has stuck to two miles and is also proven on good ground, has been deliberately campaigned so as to avoid the Class 1 penalty after winning a weak Class 3 at long odds-on at Doncaster last month.

Penalty or not, there won't be a better long-term prospect in this year's Dawn Run than Brighterdaysahead and it's not hard to see her eventually topping this market when the dust settles, especially if there's rain around Festival week.

Watch Race Replay

Unlimited race replays of all UK & Irish racing

Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee

Log in with your existing Sporting Life, Sky Bet, or Sky Games account. If you don't have any of those, it's completely FREE to register!

Exeter’s Premier Raceday featured a couple of three-runner affairs but there looked to be a decent turnout and while punters didn’t seem to take the hint with Willie Mullins' first runner at the course, Fun Fun Fun made the trip worthwhile in the TrustATrader Fully Vetted Tradespeople Novices’ Hurdle.

Daryl Jacob, fresh from his impromptu blacksmith assistance duties prior to the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday, kept things simple on 6/4 chance Fun Fun Fun, and she made every yard of the running to hold well-backed 11/8 favourite Favour And Fortune half a length at bay.

The best horse in the race finished second, Alan King’s Formby runner-up Favour And Fortune having conceded 10lb to the Mullins mare, but she has the right attitude and it was good to see Fun Fun Fun attacking her hurdles after a bad mistake cost her when odds-on at Thurles in December.

Sky Bet went 10/1 (NRNB) but she has plenty more to find to trouble the likes of Brighterdaysahead.

Favour And Fortune, quietly fancied in certain quarters for last season's Champion Bumper, was pushed out to 50/1 in places for the Sky Bet Supreme (33s NRNB with the sponsors) and, having now had the fourth start over hurdles, must be considered for an immediate switch to high-class handicaps as he wouldn't look out of place in a County Hurdle or Martin Pipe if they fancied trying him over a bit further.

Extracurricular activity - Billy kidded along by Jonjo

Not a mare in sight but worth a mention anyway as Exeter's opening Trustatrader Approved And Reviewed Trades People Novices’ Chase – the other three-runner race - appeared to produce a progressive winner in Crebilly.

After a fall on chasing debut and ponderous effort when fourth behind Ginny’s Destiny – and the luckless Grey Dawning – back at Cheltenham for the December meeting last time out, it appeared a safe round of jumping was priority number one for Jonjo O’Neill’s seven-year-old and the trainer’s son delivered a peach of a ride.

Granted, Tahmuras hung left late on and Trelawne seemed somewhat recalcitrant for most of the two mile, three-furlong journey, but Crebilly picked up well and ran straight and true to get up cosily after all the jumping had been complete.

The question remains whether his fencing will stand up to the rigours of a Cheltenham Festival handicap but he won’t go up much – if at all – for this as he was getting 5lb from the other pair and he should definitely make the cut for the Plate based on recent cut-offs.

Like a lot of Jonjo’s, a wet March would be a plus looking at this horse’s overall profile as he’s particularly effective when it’s testing.

Watch Race Replay

Unlimited race replays of all UK & Irish racing

Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee

Log in with your existing Sporting Life, Sky Bet, or Sky Games account. If you don't have any of those, it's completely FREE to register!

More from Sporting Life

Safer gambling

We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.

If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.

Further support and information can be found at and

Like what you've read?

Next Off

Sporting Life
My Stable
Follow and track your favourite Horses, Jockeys and Trainers. Never miss a race with automated alerts.
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Click HERE for more information

Most Followed


We are committed to Safer Gambling and have a number of self-help tools to help you manage your gambling. We also work with a number of independent charitable organisations who can offer help and answers any questions you may have.
Gamble Aware LogoGamble Helpline LogoGamstop LogoGordon Moody LogoSafer Gambling Standard LogoGamban Logo18+ LogoTake Time To Think Logo