By Billy Blakeman ValueChecker
Quevega the Festival Banker
The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle is one of the newer races at the festival and as such, trends are not yet mature for the final race on day one. There is one trend that stands out though; Willie Mullins’ Irish mare Quevega has won three of the four runnings in 2009, 2010 & 2011.
The good news for stat fans is that she is due to line-up again and I see no reason to oppose her for win purposes. Trainer Willie Mullins has master minded this top race-mare’s career and her racecourse appearances are generally limited to the Championship races. It is clear she does not need a prep-race so expect her to be spot-on come the day and once again, looks the Festival banker.
Voler La Vedette has an interesting profile in that she has won on all grounds and from 2-miles to 3-miles. She is due to contest the Irish Champion Hurdle at the end of January and she will go into that on the back of two consecutive personal best efforts. Certainly looks strong each-way at this stage for the Mares’ Hurdle but the fact is that she has been well-beaten twice by Quevega, so the win might prove elusive. Also entered in the World Hurdle alongside Quevega.
Dermot Weld’s Unaccompanied has more of a flat racing pedigree than many who will go to Cheltenham and she is not entered in the World Hurdle, rather she is a possible Champion Hurdle contender. She also heads to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion and she looks the main danger to Hurricane Fly. Her form has hit new heights this winter and although she looks on the face of it a good place bet for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, there is a real possibility she will go for the Champion Hurdle so her appeal Ante-Post for this race is low.
As a consequence, the winner was introduced at prices ranging from bet365's 12/1 to Boylesports' 25s. Stan James went 20/1 while keeping the runner-up at 16s, as spokesman Rory Jiwani confirmed: "Violin Davis reversed Kempton form with Kentford Grey Lady to take the Mares' Hurdle with Our Girl Salley back in third. "The winner gets a quote of 20/1 for the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham with Kentford Grey Lady 16/1. Our Girl Salley has been eased from 10/1 to 20/1 with Quevega the 11/10 favourite."
DAVID NICHOLSON MARES’ HURDLE RACE FACTS AND FIGURES
This year sees the fourth 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.
“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 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase (1994 & 1995 Viking Flagship), Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Anzum 1999) and totesport Gold Cup (1988 Charter Party).
Nicholson became the first trainer for more than 50 years to saddle three winners in a day at The Festival when Putty Road (Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle), Viking Flagship (sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase) and Kadi (Byrne Group Plate) all triumphed on March 15, 1995.
DAVID NICHOLSON MARES’ HURDLE PAST RESULTS
2010-WINNER-QUEVEGA 6-11-05 Owner-Hammer & Trowel Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE;
2009-WINNER-QUEVEGA 5-11-03 Owner-Hammer & Trowel Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-2/1 Fav
2008-WINNER-WHITEOAK 5-11-00 Owner-Brendan Richardson; Trainer-Donald McCain Jnr; Jockey-Jason Maguire; SP-20/1
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