Looking back at last year’s National Hunt season, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about this year’s competition. However, something that springs to mind is that we possibly have one of the strongest contingents of mares that have been seen in a long time.
There are 30 mares that could walk into any list but we have attempted to whittle down to five that must be considered for every stable.
Put The Kettle On
She was the forgotten horse heading into the Arkle last year but there was nothing forgettable about her performance. She was brilliant, even taking into account a 7lb sex allowance, jumping the field into submission. Perhaps you could say she was given an easy lead in front but the team behind would have been upset not to be able to take her to Aintree of Punchestown.
Her trademark is that she is a brilliant jumper, she takes her fences very well and puts distance between herself and other contenders at every obstacle and she will have to use that to her advantage to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
There is an argument to say the QMCC division is the weakest it has been for a while. The up and coming talent not only have the possibility to catch Defi Du Seuil and Politologue but also surpass them.
Once again, Put The Kettle On will have a 7lb allowance meaning she will probably have to find 10lbs of improvement to be in with a shout at the places.
Her form has been boosted further with Rouge Vif putting in a wonderful performance on the at Cheltenham in October posting an RPR 11lbs higher than his official mark. Al Dancer also won on return with a much-improved performance based on the ratings. All is set up for her to be competing at the top of the 2m chasing division.
Having won the Martin Pipe last year, it will be fascinating to see what Indefatigable does this season. She was a big price that day and may be one to have a win or two at decent prices again this season.
She kicked off her season on the flat on October 29th and Indefatigable backers will be hoping she can clean up in the Listed and Grade 3 division. The team behind her doesn’t exactly hold back on keeping her right so she will be tried and tested on multiple occasions.
She would have finished last season with over 50 points last season and now with Lady Buttons out of the way, there will be plenty more chances to rope in more points. The Paul Webber trained seven-year-old finished second to Dame De Compagnie and that now looks fantastic form considering the JP Mcmanus horse went on to win the Coral Cup.
She would certainly be a dark horse to include in your Tote Ten to Follow but she could come in with some big scores and the occasional Grade 3 will keep things ticking over.
There is no denying that including Laurina in your Tote Ten to Follow would be a very risky move. However, it could be one that is very rewarding. She was one of the most popular picks of last year’s competition after she tore Minella Indo apart at Gowran in November. How good does that look now?
After that, every bit of talent that she had seemed to disappear. She was pulled up at Leopardstown in the Racing Post Novice Chase then the same happened when Itchy Feet won the Scilly Isles.
She has now been sent to Paul Nicholls and if there is anyone that can work some magic back into her, it is him. The introduction of the mares chase at Cheltenham looks to be tailor-made for her and there would not be a frown in the UK or Ireland to see her cross the line in front at the Festival.
Benie Des Dieux
If this mare is not a shoo-in into every stable, then it is difficult to say what is considered a banker. She was emphatic when beating Penhill in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran but the Willie Mullins team seemed to get their tactics horribly wrong in the Mare Hurdle at the Festival.
Robbie Power was leading on Stormy Ireland and seemed to let Honeysuckle up the rail, seemingly thinking it was Benie Des Dieux coming with a run. However, despite the race being won by Henry De Bromhead’s Honeysuckle, the former is far more suited to a stint at chasing. She is a bigger and stronger unit and will have the experience under her belt. She is nine-years-old so it is now or never.
Similar to Laurina possibly targeting the new mares chase at Cheltenham, that could also be a goal for Rich Ricci’s mare. If she doesn’t head that way she will highly likely be one of the favourites for the Stayers or Mares Hurdle so either way, she is going to be a popular choice this season.
After 321 days away from the track, Nicky Henderson may be dreaming of great things for Marie’s Rock. She was unfortunate to miss the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham but remains a very exciting filly. The way she has picked up in her very few outings so far have been very impressive.
Henderson will be targeting the top of the mares division and there will be a good campaign planned out for that to happen. She has an entry in the Greatwood on the Sunday after the competition closes, so that would make for a very exciting start. After that, we will likely see her in Listed or Grade 3 company towards the end of the year.
Her handler will want to ensure he knows enough about her before the Cheltenham Festival so it is very likely that she will race three times prior to March.
She is a dark horse but one who has so much improvement to come and she could follow Epatante down the Champion Hurdle route.