Cheltenham tips: Mares’ Hurdle antepost picks from Frank Hickey

Frank has picked out his top tips for the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham

Frank Hickey Black Tears

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*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change

Frank Hickey has given his expert opinion on the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival – where Paddy Power is offering non-runner money back on all 28 races so there’s no risk of losing out if your pick withdraws before final declarations.

Speaking on the latest episode of Paddy Power’s special ‘Countdown to Cheltenham’ podcast, our trader offered his take on the challengers to favourite Concertista.

You can listen to the full show BELOW.

CONCERTISTA still has a bit to prove if she was to be considered for the Champion Hurdle, but the the style in which she won the last day at Leopardstown got people talking. However, when people were calling for her to go down that route Honeysuckle hadn’t yet bolted up at Leopardstown and the race was an open field after Epatante got beaten by Silver Streak at Christmas.

Now the Champion Hurdle looks like it’s going to be red hot with Honeysuckle and Goshen both bolting up on their last starts. All of a sudden it looks like a cracking renewal, when a month ago it was looking wide open and potentially weak. If she ran in the Champion Hurdle, she might be a 12/1 shot on the day and it would be great to add more depth to the race – I’m not saying she should be running though!

ConcertistaJan21

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It makes sense for ROKSANA to avoid the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle and drop back into the Mares’ Hurdle. She is 7/1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle, but is 3/1 for the Mares’ Hurdle.

The one concern you would have with her is that, while she has improved going over 3m and she has been travelling through the races very well, last year she didn’t look to have the pace in the Mares’ Hurdle. But how good is this race? It’s probably not even as good as last year with no Honeysuckle or Benie Des Dieux. I would drop her back into it if she was mine.

Then you have DAME DE COMPAGNIE and BLACK TEARS who have been running really well in competitive handicaps at the festival. Dame De Compagnie won the Coral Cup last year when well backed, and she won impressively enough off a mark of 140. That’s not enough to be winning a Mares’ Hurdle but the way she won suggests to me that she is definitely a 150 mare.

She jumped okay at Ayr, warming to the task over fences, but then went down the last day at Sandown. She has the ability to figure, likes the track and her record over 2.5m is actually quite good as well; beaten a nose by Point of Principle over 2m3.5f at Ascot in a novice hurdle, won a Cheltenham mares novice hurdle over 2m4.5f, won a Cheltenham mares’ handicap hurdle over 2m4.5f off a mark of 132 and won the Coral Cup over 2m5f off 140.

Her other start was when she unseated in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase, but the trip suits her and she has good course form. There is a lot to like about her, but a small concern would be that you would want to see Nicky Henderson’s horses running a little better – they’re a bit patchy at the moment. But you would imagine, come Cheltenham time, most of them would be flying.

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We can’t ignore INDEFATIGABLE, who has a very decent Cheltenham record. She was fifth in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle that Concertista finished second in, she won a mares’ novice hurdle over 2m4.5f, she was second to Dame De Compagnie in a handicap off a mark of 137 and she won the Martin Pipe last year off 145 – which takes a fair bit of winning – despite not getting a great start and she was near the back when jumping the third last.

She’s now rated 149 and I would take her two runs this season with a pinch of salt. She didn’t stay 3m at Kempton and was poor in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle against McFabulous and On The Blind Side. Considering how well she goes at Cheltenham, and the fact she won the Martin Pipe off top weight, she definitely has each-way claims.

VERDANA BLUE has been a bit disappointing over hurdles this season and don’t think she has run anywhere near here official rating – she was rated 160 at beginning of the season but is now rated 151. She had been shaping well on the flat over staying trips though, finishing second in the Ascot Stakes over 2m off 100 and then finishing third in the Ebor off 102.

Her hurdles runs this season have been over 2m and perhaps training to make her into more a staying type had blunted her speed and now she needs a trip over hurdles? She probably would be a player if we got good to soft ground on the day.

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The other one who is interesting is BLACK TEARS for Gordon Elliott. She’s had two runs at Cheltenham; fourth in the Mares’ Novice hurdle that Concertista was second in and then she was second in last year’s Coral Cup off 144. She travelled like a dream in last year’s Coral Cup and I think better ground would really suit her.

She has been underwhelming this season but ran in November and December when Gordon wasn’t exactly flying it and she wants better ground. However, she beat Concertista in the Mares Handicap Hurdle at last year’s Dublin Racing Festival by nearly five lengths when getting 2lbs off her and the ground was yielding. She’s another at a big price that I wouldn’t be surprised if she runs into a place.

If I was having a bet, I can’t make up my mind between Black Tears and Indefatigable – both each-way. One of them, or potentially both of them, might hit the frame.

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change

Frank Hickey’s Mares’ Hurdle bet summary

Black Tears/Indefatigable (Each-Way)

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL‘S BIG RACES

March 16 – 13.20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 16 – 13.55 – Arkle Chase latest odds and tips

March 16 – 15.05 – Champion Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 17 – 13.20 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 17 – 13.55 – Festival Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips

March 17 – 15.05 – Queen Mother Champion Chase latest odds and tips

March 18 – 13.20 – Marsh Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips

March 18 – 14.30 – Ryanair Chase latest odds and tips

March 18 – 15.05 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 19 – 13.20 – Triumph Hurdle latest odds and tips

March 19 – 14.30 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips

March 19 – 15.05 – Gold Cup latest odds and tips

March 19 – 16.15 – Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase latest odds and tips

    CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL DAY ONE SCHEDULE

    13:20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y

    13.55 – Arkle Chase (Grade 1) 1m 7f 199y

    14.30 – Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f

    15.05 – Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y

    15.40 – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y

    16.15 – Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 87y

    16.50 – National Hunt Chase (Grade 2) 3m 5f 201y

    *Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.

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