1st (12) Whiteoak 20-1
The Donald McCain-trained Whiteoak fought back against a determined Refinment and Tony McCoy to prevail in a photo finish for the inaugural David Nicholson Mares Hurdle.
Despite the five-year-old’s 20/1 starting price, McCain admitted that the success was not a complete surprise. “I’ve always thought a lot of her and she probably got there too soon because she just does enough in front, although today she got there and went again,” said McCain.
“I thought Refinement was going to get there and would have been a little disappointed but she was unbelieveable and came again.
“Her form was there, she was just beaten by Tazbar - the best novice in there - and when she won at Ascot everyone said the southern horses hadn’t run to form which was frustrating. If I’d done my job properly she’d be unbeaten this season.”
Winning rider Jason Maguire added: “She’s very tough, we were headed on the run-in and she fought back. She’s not got a straightforward head carriage and the worry beforehand was today’s trip because she has so much speed.”
REFINEMENT JUST TOUCHED OFF
Trainer Jonjo O’Neill was in philosophical mood after Refinement went down by a short-head to Whiteoak in the opening Grade Two David Nicholson Mares Hurdle. The two and a half mile race was being run for the first time.
Refinement looked as if she had down enough to win with a great run from the last under Tony McCoy, but appeared to stop when she hit the front and allowed Whiteoak to get back up.
The master of Jackdaws Castle commented: “Refinement is just a bit lazy and just pulled up when she hit the front.
“She has still run a blinder and is a great mare.
“She always puts everything in, it’s just she thinks she’s done enough when she hits the front.”
Tony McCoy was subsequently banned for four days for his excessive use of the whip.
Coming down the hill, the likeliest winner had appeared to be Chomba Womba, with jockey Mick Fitzgerald looking to have plenty in hand before the tank quickly emptied as she came up the hill.
“Possibly she just didn’t get home and the ground may have gone against her,” said trainer Nicky Henderson.
“You have to have so much luck and there was a couple of hurdles that the horse didn’t get right. There was a little interference which changed her rhythm, but that’s what this game is about,” added the owner, Richard Kelvin Hughes.
Gaspara, from the David Pipe stable, had set the early tempo, but stayed on a one pace for fourth. Nevertheless, jockey Tom Scudamore was very positive. “She ran a great race and didn’t go down without a fight,” he said.
THE DAVID NICHOLSON MARES HURDLE RACE
Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
David Nicholson Mares Hurdle Race – Analysis
The inaugural running of the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle, an extended two and a half mile hurdle on Friday, March 14 at Cheltenham, has attracted a strong entry of 31, including five from Ireland.
With five entered, Nicky Henderson has the most engaged at this stage and his team is headed by Chomba Womba, who has won her three starts since being bought for £160,000 at a sale at Cheltenham racecourse in April, having won five races in Ireland. Her most recent success came in a Grade Two mares’ event at Doncaster, where she was stepping back from two and a half miles to an extended two miles. On that occasion, she was three quarters of a length too good for Alan King’s staying-on Theatre Girl, while Annie’s Answer finished fourth.
Henderson’s team also includes Amaretto Rose, a winner of four of her seven career starts who was pulled-up on her first run since finishing third in last year’s Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, while My Petra, Shatabdi and Doubly Guest complete his team. My Petra has been successfully campaigned over fences this season, following up a beginners’ chase victory with a good second to The Irish Independent Arkle Chase favourite Noland.
David Pipe has entered tough performer Gaspara, who rattled off a quartet of wins last season, culminating in success in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at The Festival. She has yet to score this season, but has run some good races in defeat.
The Irish-trained quintet is headed by Michael Bowe’s prolific winner Sweet Kiln and Eoin Griffin’s Lounaos. The former’s most recent of her nine wins came at Leopardstown in the Grade Two Christmas Hurdle, while Lounaos was a winner at Limerick on Boxing Day before finishing fourth in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown for the second year in a row.
The challenging team is completed by Eric McNamara’s Chicago Vic, Pat Fahy’s My Valley and John Mulhern’s Pistol Flash.
Others of note from home are Emma Lavelle’s Labelthou and Jonjo O’Neill’s pair of Refinement and En La Cruz, while Philip Hobbs has entered Missis Potts.
DAVID NICHOLSON MARES HURDLE RACE FACTS AND FIGURES
1. This year sees the inaugural running of the Grade Two David Nicholson
Mares Hurdle, named in memory of the legendary Cotswold-based jockey
and trainer, who passed away in August, 2006.
2. “The Duke” enjoyed five successes at The Festival as
a jockey between 1963 and 1973, but is best known for his 17 victories
as a trainer, including successes in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother
Champion Chase (1994 & 1995 Viking Flagship), Ladbrokes World Hurdle
(Anzum 1999) and totesport Gold Cup (1988 Charter Party).
3. Nicholson became the first trainer for more than 50 years to saddle three winners in a day at The Festival when Putty Road (Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle), Viking Flagship (Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase) and Kadi (Racing Post Plate) all triumphed on March 15, 1995.
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