Race To Be Axed At Cheltenham Festival In Place For Mares Chase

Cheltenham Changes

The Cheltenham festival is set for a shake up with one of the races that has been part of the foundations for many years set to be shipped out to make way for the new Mares Chase.

No decision has been made yet as to what race will be forfeited to make space for the new chase contest with the festival still hosting 28 races across the four days in March and this new change is set to come in for the 2021 meeting.

Paddy Power have opened up a market for punters to predict what race they think will be taken out of the festival with the Close Brothers' Novices Chase the current favourite at 5/4, while the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is 9/4 and National Hunt Chase priced at 5/1.

The mares races have come on so much over the last 10-15 years at the pinnacle of jumps racing with the Grade 2 Mares Hurdle which takes place on the Tuesday at Cheltenham being introduced in 2008.

Since then the race has seen many star quality winners and some unforgettable festival moments which essentially added to the race being given Grade 1 status back in 2015.

Some of the stand out moments to remember about the race is when the Willie Mullins trained Quevega landed the spoils from 2009-2014 and Mullins was also involved for the wrong reasons with Annie Power back in 2015 when she was clear heading up to the last and fell, saving the bookmakers millions on the day.

This again happened at this years with Benie Des Dieux, for the same connections and trainer, falling at the last and saving the bookmakers a fair bit of money.

(Credit Racing Post) Ian Renton, regional director for Cheltenham and the south-west at the Jockey Club, said: "The introduction of a mares’ chase at the festival is something we have been considering for a while in discussion with the BHA, who are keen to see further promotion of the mares’ race programme.

"Given the recent improvement in the quality of mares racing, we have agreed to introduce a mares’ chase at the festival in 2021.

“We recognise the importance for the sport of providing opportunities for mares at the very highest level and the introduction of first the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and then the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle have been well received.

Renton added: "I hope that by providing time for trainers, owners and breeders to consider if they have a mare suitable this will allow for the development of top-class equine athletes for the new race.

"Given the need to replace an existing race at the festival in 2021 in order to stage the mares’ chase, I'm sure there will be much debate as to which one this should be."

The Grade 2 Mares Hurdle on the Thursday of the festival has only took place four times so far, with Willie Mullins taking every renewal of the contest so far.

He landed the first one with Limini and since then has taken it consecutively with Let's Dance, Laurina and Eglantine Du Seuil, after which this season saw winning rider Noel Fehily announce his retirement from the sport.

Five-time champion jumps trainer Nicky Henderson said: "The encouragement that has been given to racing jumps mares has worked incredibly well, and with the two mares' hurdle races at the festival being so popular it is a great time to introduce a Mares' Chase.

"There are undoubtedly more and more high-class mares coming through the system and going chasing, and this would obviously be further encouragement for owners and, particularly, owner-breeders to race their good mares over fences."