16:10 Cheltenham Tue 13 March 2018
- OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle) (Class 1)
- 2m 3f 200y, Heavy (Soft in places)
- 9 Runners
- Surface: Turf
Won this race last year in a rallying finish and wins over Nichols Canyon and Supasundae in Ireland this season suggest six-year-old has improved again. Will surely call for a herculean effort to deny her in this race.
Unbeaten in three starts over fences since joining this yard from France and looked most impressive in the process. Hasn't run over hurdles since November 2015. Trainer has won this eight times (second last year) and commands respect.
Finished 5¼L fourth behind Apple's Jade in this a year ago, most disappointing in three runs since including when pulled-up last month on reappearance over 3m at Newbury having raced with little enthusiasm.
Still tanking along when fell three out in this race a year ago, she's an above-average mare and ran within 2L of Apple's Jade at Navan in November. May not have the class to reverse placings, but capable of having her say and solid place contender.
Made some useful strides over timber this term, including handicap debut win at Kempton (2m, soft) in December. Will have learnt plenty from last month's experience in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Needs this longer trip to bring about a bit extra.
Impressive and versatile hurdler, unbeaten in three starts this season from 2m-3m1f. Defeated Jer's Girl over longer trip at Kempton in November and easy winner of Mares' Grade 2 at Ascot in January. Should give a good account.
Beaten 20L behind Apple's Jade in this contest a year ago, the eight-year-old has regressed based on her three runs this term and looks up against it on that evidence.
Ran well enough in this last year (beaten less than 10L) before coming back to land Listed contest here in April. Running to her mark in four outings this term, but last month's Warwick Listed run suggests she has a lot to find in this company.
Just a maiden hurdle to her name in six runs for Willie Mullins, well fended off last month in Listed Punchestown contest over this trip (soft to heavy) on reappearance and facing mammoth task today on that showing.
Last Year's Winner
|T: G ElliottJ: B J Cooper|
Apple's Jade (1/2), Benie Des Dieux (9/2), La Bague Au Roi (5/1), Jer's Girl (10/1), Kayf Grace (25/1), Midnight Tour (33/1), Pravalaguna (50/1), Indian Stream (66/1), Midnight Jazz (66/1)
- Apple's Jade
- Jer's Girl
- La Bague Au Roi
WHAT THE TRAINERS' SAY:
Gordon Elliott - Apple's Jade: "This year we've had a very clear run. Last year she was a bit weak and we had a few niggly problems, whereas this year we've had a clear run the whole way. I was always taught to go for the race you can win."
Patrick Mullins - Benie Des Dieux: "Benie Des Dieux has the enviable task of taking on Apple's Jade and, to my eye, she looks better now this year than last year. We think Benie is very good and is as good as Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini. We are expecting her to give Apple's Jade a race but she will be very hard to beat.
"She has had two runs this season and they have both been over fences. She is a fabulous jumper and coming back to hurdles won't be a problem. She is unexposed and I think she is capable of more improvement. "
Patrick Mullins - Pravalaguna: "It is a small field and she handles the soft ground well. We are just hoping that she can try and sneak into the prize-money."
Warren Greatrex - La Bague Au Roi: "She is in good form and the rain won't hurt much. It will make it much more of a staying race and that should help her as she has won over three miles twice this season. Apple's Jade has looked brilliant, but I do think this mare is improving and if things go to plan she should go well."
Alan King - Midnight Tour: "She was unlucky at the Festival last year. She made a bad mistake and she got shuffled back but she was powering up the hill. At Warwick she nearly got put through a wing at the second-last and she was again finishing faster than anything (when third to Woolstone One). She might not win it but she could be in the money. She goes on the soft but she would be better on better ground."
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