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The newest race to the Cheltenham Festival is a Mares’ Chase sponsored by none other than fun-loving banter bookie Paddy Power. Or at least, his wife has sponsored it. The good news is that it is race 27 of 28 for the week so if you are riding high after a week of winners, this could help top up your tally of triumphs as we head towards the weekend.
Elimay was a good if not great hurdler, but since taking to the bigger obstacles she has excelled. She won three of her four starts over fences, with her sole defeat coming to Allaho in Thurles in January as Elimay threw down the gauntlet to the boys.
She followed that up with a comfortable win back among the mares in Naas last month and has already left a lot of these challengers eating her dust.
One horse she hasn’t faced is stable companion Colreevy. Another one of Willie Mullins’ super-mares, Colreevy has won all three of her races since going chasing this season including a Grade one in Limerick on St Stephen’s Day.
She followed that up with a hugely eye-catching 12-length demolition job of a Grade two field in Thurles and eager punters who skip back through her form will notice three years ago she won a Mares’ Flat Race – beating none other than Black Tears, the horse who won the mares race on Tuesday.
I’m crunching the form book, so you don’t have to.
Shattered Love is a previous Festival winner, scooping the JLT Novices’ Chase here in 2018, but the 10-year-old is probably now ready to frolic around a field in retirement rather than try to take down Elimay again.
She battled into second in Naas last month with Elimay five-and-a-half lengths up in front and although this slightly longer trip here will suit her, trying to lay a glove on the favourite is a different kettle of fish.
Magic Of Light’s attempts to win the Grade two Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot in January for the third year on the spin were shot down by Roksana earlier this year, but now she takes a stop here on her road to the Grand National.
Roksana placed in the Mares’ race on Tuesday which doesn’t give this form as much of a boost as Black Tears gave Colreevy but still, Magic Of Light was far from embarrassed in that defeat and will aim to put in another good showing before heading to Aintree.
We’ve all had a tough 12 months in lockdown, and Salsaretta is no different. Last March she had just won her fourth race on the spin, pocketing €62k in winnings along the way. She took a break over the summer and returned at Punchestown, albeit briefly, when she fell at the first. We then didn’t see her until January in Fairyhouse where he was sent off the 4/6 favourite in a Grade three but finished dead-last, 47 lengths behind the winner. Paul Townend said there was something not right that day and that can’t fill anyone with confidence going into the Festival.
Moyhenna has been doing her best work in handicap company during her career and now comes to Cheltenham looking for her first success in a Graded race. She’s had 11 races over nearly two years without winning – only getting into the frame three times – but her last effort in a Graded race saw her come within a length of the winner Agusta Gold. That’s about the only tiny shred of hope I can pull out for her.
Zambella has shown plenty of improvement during her first season over fences and Annie Mc last time out is the only horse stopping Zambella coming into this contest on a four-race winning streak. This is a step up in class but there’s nothing more satisfying than being consistently better than your friends and peers, so Zambella probably arrives at Cheltenham with plenty of swagger.
The Queen is less royalty in the mares’ chasing world after she was beaten 10 lengths by Shattered Love at Clonmel in November before Moyhenna was 28 lengths better than her in Fairyhouse a couple of months later.
If Zambella comes here full of confidence, Cabaret Queen is the opposite having been 75 lengths behind the winner last time out at Gowran Park. There won’t be much singing or dancing from fans if this unlikely Cabaret gets up in front.
Chilli Filli is one of the best named fillies in training, but the love for hearing her called out on commentary should not distract you from the fact she hit the deck last time out. That’s never good coming into Cheltenham, but before that Chilli Filli had finished in the first two in her last four races.
She’ll need to shake off that fall and find some huge improvement to threaten the frame here.
Last October Cut The Mustard swapped Willie Mullins’ yard for Paul Nicholls as he made the decision to Ire-exit and head for the UK. Nicholls has struggled to get her nose in front as did Mullins, and if those pair can’t train you to win nobody can. Cut The Mustard has finished in the top three in her three runs this season, but they were all relatively small fields and disguise the fact she’s only beaten eight horses.
Really Super’s form is hardly reflective of her name, but it isn’t bad, and she is a rapidly improving mare who won on the flat at Lingfield last time out. She has beaten some decent mares in her time, but the concern is last tie we saw her over fences she was 11 lengths behind Chilli Filli who has hardly been setting the world alight.
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