Mares Hurdle: Celebrating Equine Excellence and History at Cheltenham

mares hurdle

The Mares Hurdle, a pivotal event in the horse racing calendar, commands attention with its dynamic blend of speed and strategy. This Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race, held annually at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival, exclusively features mares, showcasing their agility and prowess. The race, often a thrilling display of equine excellence, has become a highlight for enthusiasts and professionals alike.

The Mares Hurdle, initially established as the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle, offers a unique platform for mares to shine on one of horse racing’s grandest stages. The race spans over a distance of about 2 miles and 4 furlongs, comprising hurdles that test both the speed and jumping ability of the competing mares. The event not only celebrates the sport but also highlights the remarkable capabilities of these female horses.

History and Significance of the Race

The race’s inception traces back to 2008, named in honor of the legendary trainer David Nicholson. It serves as a testament to Nicholson’s enduring legacy in the sport. Over the years, the Mares Hurdle has evolved into a race of high esteem, attracting leading trainers like Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson, and renowned jockeys such as Ruby Walsh and Rachael Blackmore.

Significant victories in this race have included those by equine stars like Vroum Vroum Mag, Quevega, and Benie des Dieux, all trained by W. P. Mullins. These victories not only underscore the race’s competitive nature but also the meticulous preparation by trainers and jockeys. The triumph of Maries Rock in a recent race, under the skilled guidance of Nicky Henderson, further cements the race’s reputation as a battleground for top-tier talent.

Furthermore, the Mares Hurdle acts as a precursor to other major events like the Champion Hurdle, and in some cases, even the Grand National. Winners and participants of the Mares Hurdle often go on to compete in these significant races, making the Mares Hurdle a key indicator of future successes at the Cheltenham Festival and beyond.

The Close Brothers Mares Hurdle, as it’s currently known for sponsorship reasons, continues to be a focal point for horse racing tips and betting, with fans and bettors closely analyzing the odds and performances. The race not only offers excitement and entertainment but also contributes significantly to the broader narrative of horse racing, marking a pivotal moment in the careers of many outstanding mares.

Understanding the Mares Hurdle

Race Profile: Distance, Hurdles, and Course

The Mares Hurdle, a cornerstone event at the Cheltenham Festival, presents a unique blend of challenges and opportunities for competing mares. Spanning approximately 2 miles and 4 furlongs, this race tests the endurance, speed, and agility of the participants.

The course, known for its undulating terrain and the precision required to navigate its hurdles, sets the stage for an exhilarating competition. With each hurdle, the mares showcase their jumping prowess, a critical skill that often determines the outcome of the race.

The Importance of Grade 1 National Hunt Races

As a Grade 1 National Hunt race, the Mares Hurdle shines brightly in the horse racing universe. This label speaks volumes about the quality and caliber of the horses that take part. Indeed, the race pulls in celebrated trainers and jockeys, with Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Ruby Walsh, and Rachael Blackmore being prime examples. They bring unparalleled expertise and experience to the competition.

The impact of the Mares Hurdle extends well beyond the track, shaping the future of other high-stake events such as the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The performance of the mares in this race often forecasts their outcomes in these subsequent competitions. Additionally, achieving victory in the Mares Hurdle can significantly advance a mare’s career, opening doors to other esteemed races like the Grand National and the Irish Champion Hurdle.

In essence, the Mares Hurdle stands as a celebration of the skill and grace of these exceptional equine athletes. Its distance, hurdles, and challenging course, combined with its prestige as a Grade 1 event, earmark it as a pivotal moment in the horse racing year, capturing the attention of fans and experts alike.

Key Contenders and Their Profiles

Top Mares to Watch in the 2024 Race

The Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival consistently showcases a dazzling array of equine talent. As the 2024 race approaches, several mares have emerged as frontrunners, each bringing a unique blend of speed, agility, and racing pedigree.

Key contenders to watch include:

  • Queens Brook: Trained by the adept Gordon Elliott, this mare has demonstrated remarkable consistency and resilience in past races.
  • Maries Rock: Nicky Henderson’s charge, known for her explosive speed and agility, is a strong contender, having shown impressive performances in previous outings.
  • Brandy Love: Under the tutelage of W. P. Mullins, this mare has been gaining attention for her tenacity and skill, making her a mare to watch.

Trainer Insights: Strategies for the Mares Hurdle

The success of a mare in the Mares Hurdle often hinges on the strategy employed by her trainer. Renowned trainers like Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, and Gordon Elliott have mastered the art of preparing their charges for this challenging race. Key insights include:

  • Willie Mullins: Known for his strategic planning, Mullins focuses on building stamina and agility in his mares, ensuring they can handle the demanding Cheltenham course.
  • Nicky Henderson: Henderson’s approach often involves meticulous training regimes that enhance the jumping abilities of his mares, a crucial factor in the hurdles.
  • Gordon Elliott: Elliott emphasizes mental preparation, ensuring his mares are in peak condition to handle the intense atmosphere of the Cheltenham Festival.

These insights offer a glimpse into the meticulous preparation that goes into priming a mare for the Mares Hurdle. With top trainers bringing their best to the race, the 2024 Mares Hurdle promises to be a showcase of the highest caliber of horse racing talent.

Past Winners and Their Legacy

2022Marie’s Rock7Nicky HendersonNico de Boinville
2021Black Tears7Denise FosterJack Kennedy
2020Honeysuckle6Henry De BromheadRachael Blackmore
2019Roksana7Dan SkeltonHarry Skelton
2018Benie Des Dieux7Willie MullinsRuby Walsh
2017Apple’s Jade5Gordon ElliottBryan Cooper
2016Vroum Vroum Mag7Willie MullinsRuby Walsh
2015Glens Melody7Willie MullinsPaul Townend
2014Quevega10Willie MullinsRuby Walsh
2013Quevega9Willie MullinsRuby Walsh

Notable Victories in Recent Years

The Mares Hurdle has a rich history of remarkable victories that have left an indelible mark on the world of horse racing. In recent years, several mares have risen to prominence by clinching victory in this prestigious race at the Cheltenham Festival. Noteworthy among them are:

  • Vroum Vroum Mag: Trained by the legendary Willie Mullins, Vroum Vroum Mag’s victory in the Mares Hurdle was a testament to her exceptional agility and speed.
  • Benie Des Dieux: Another gem from Mullins’ stable, Benie Des Dieux’s triumph showcased her extraordinary endurance and jumping prowess, making her a mare of true distinction.
  • Queens Brook: Under Gordon Elliott’s guidance, Queens Brook’s performance in the Mares Hurdle highlighted her rising potential in National Hunt racing.

How Past Winners Have Influenced the Race

The legacy of past winners of the Mares Hurdle goes way beyond just their wins. These mares have created standards for how to perform, changing how trainers get ready for future races. Trainers like Nicky Henderson and Ruby Walsh use these champions as guides when preparing their horses.

Also, the success of these mares changes how people bet on races. Fans and bettors look closely at how these mares raced and use this to make better bets. The victories of these mares have not just made the Mares Hurdle history richer but have also made the race more important in the National Hunt racing calendar.

Overall, past winners of the Mares Hurdle have had a big impact on the race. Their amazing races continue to inspire and shape horse racing, making the Mares Hurdle a top race known for its excellence and tough competition.

Betting and Odds Analysis

Understanding Odds and Betting Strategies

In the thrilling world of horse racing, knowing how betting and odds work is super key, especially for big races like the Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Odds show how likely it is a horse will win and help bettors guess their possible wins. These odds change because of many things like how well the horse has done before, how it’s trained, and how good the jockey is.

People who bet a lot really get into looking at every detail. They think about things like the condition of the track and how each horse has raced before. For instance, horses trained by Willie Mullins or Nicky Henderson often have better odds because these trainers win a lot. It’s also super important to look at the jockey, like Ruby Walsh or Rachael Blackmore. A skilled jockey can make a big difference in how the horse does.

Tips for First-Time Bettors on the Mares Hurdle

For newcomers to betting on horse racing, the Mares Hurdle presents both an opportunity and a challenge. Here are some key tips:

  1. Research Thoroughly: Before placing any bets, familiarize yourself with the mares’ past performances, particularly in races like the Champion Hurdle or the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which might provide insights into their form and stamina.
  2. Understand Betting Options: From simple win bets to more complex each-way bets, understanding the variety of betting options is crucial. Each-way bets, for instance, offer a safety net by paying out if your chosen mare finishes in a top position.
  3. Use Bet Credits and Free Bets Wisely: Many bookmakers offer free bet credits for big events like the Mares Hurdle. Use these opportunities to your advantage, but always read the terms and conditions.
  4. Keep an Eye on Odds Movements: Odds can change leading up to the race, influenced by factors like public betting patterns and any late-breaking news regarding the mares or their trainers.
  5. Watch for Dark Horses: While favuorites like Queens Brook or Maries Rock might dominate the headlines, underdogs can sometimes provide surprising upsets, offering lucrative returns for risk-takers.

By combining these strategies with keen observation and continuous learning, bettors can enhance their chances of success at the Mares Hurdle. Remember, betting should always be approached responsibly, with awareness of the risks involved.

The Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival

The Significance of Cheltenham in Horse Racing

Based on The Cheltenham Festival, a beacon in the horse racing world, provides a grand stage for the prestigious Mares Hurdle. This festival, renowned for its rich history and tradition, is a pinnacle event that attracts racing enthusiasts globally. The significance of Cheltenham lies not just in its heritage but also in its ability to showcase the best of National Hunt racing. It’s a platform where legends are made, and the Mares Hurdle is a crucial part of this narrative.

At Cheltenham, the combination of a challenging course and the electrifying atmosphere sets the perfect backdrop for the Mares Hurdle. Trainers like Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, and Gordon Elliott, along with top jockeys such as Ruby Walsh and Rachael Blackmore, all converge with a single aim – to etch their names in the annals of horse racing history. The festival’s prestige elevates the Mares Hurdle, making it more than just a race; it’s a spectacle, a celebration of equine excellence.

How the Mares Hurdle Fits into the Festival’s Schedule

Based on The Mares Hurdle, strategically placed on the festival’s schedule, often acts as a barometer for the rest of the event. Typically held on the opening day, it sets the tone for what is to come. The race’s placement also allows for a seamless transition into other marquee events such as the Champion Hurdle, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the Grand National.

This scheduling ensures that the Mares Hurdle receives the attention it deserves, allowing spectators and bettors to fully immerse themselves in the excitement it brings. The anticipation builds up right from the Dublin Racing Festival, through the Irish Champion Hurdle, and peaks at Cheltenham, making the Mares Hurdle a focal point for those following the circuit.

The Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival is not just a race; it’s a culmination of skill, strategy, and heart. It’s where the prowess of mares like Vroum Vroum Mag, Benie des Dieux, and Maries Rock is put to the ultimate test, under the watchful eyes of a global audience, cementing its place as a jewel in the crown of horse racing.

Preparing for the 2024 Mares Hurdle

Training and Preparation for the Horses

The Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival demands meticulous preparation and training for the competing equine athletes. Each mare undergoes a specialised regimen tailored to enhance her strengths and address any weaknesses. Trainers like Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, and Gordon Elliott focus on a combination of endurance training, speed work, and jumping drills to prepare their mares for the challenges of the Cheltenham course.

Key aspects of this preparation include:

  • Stamina Building: Essential for the 2-mile-plus distance of the Mares Hurdle, trainers implement rigorous cardiovascular workouts to build endurance.
  • Jumping Proficiency: With hurdles being a critical component of the race, trainers allocate significant time to perfecting the jumping technique of their mares.
  • Mental Conditioning: Preparing the mares to handle the high-pressure environment of Cheltenham is crucial. This involves acclimatising them to large crowds and noise.

What Spectators Can Expect at the Event

For spectators, the Mares Hurdle offers a thrilling experience filled with anticipation and excitement. Attendees can expect:

  • Top-Level Competition: The race features some of the best mares in National Hunt racing, offering a showcase of sheer talent and skill.
  • Festival Atmosphere: Cheltenham Festival is known for its vibrant atmosphere, with enthusiastic crowds, entertainment, and a sense of shared passion for horse racing.
  • Insightful Commentary: Expert analysis from figures like Ruby Walsh and Rachael Blackmore provides spectators with valuable insights into the race dynamics.

This chapter prepares fans and participants alike for what lies ahead in the 2024 Mares Hurdle. From the rigorous training regimens of the mares to the electric atmosphere at Cheltenham, it sets the stage for an unforgettable racing spectacle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Irish Mares Hurdle?

The Irish Mares Hurdle is a similar event to the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham but takes place in Ireland. It’s part of the Dublin Racing Festival and serves as an important lead-up race to Cheltenham, offering insights into the form and potential of various mares competing in the Cheltenham Festival.

What is the Distance and Number of Hurdles in the Mares Hurdle Race at Cheltenham?

The Mares Hurdle run at the Cheltenham Festival is contested over a distance of 2 miles and 4 furlongs, with 8 hurdles to be jumped over the course.

Which Jockey Has Won the Most Editions of the Mares Hurdle?

Ruby Walsh has the most Mares Hurdle wins to date, having won the race 6 times aboard Quevega between 2009 and 2014.

What Qualification Races Must a Mare Run In to Enter Cheltenham’s Mares Hurdle?

There are no official qualification races, but most trainers will run contenders in key lead-up events like the Irish Champion Hurdle to prove form and fitness.

Who is the Leading Trainer in Terms of Mares Hurdle Wins?

Legendary Irish trainer Willie Mullins has trained by far the most Mares Hurdle winners, with 10 victories since 2008.

What Prize Money is Awarded for Winning the Mares Hurdle?

The total Mares Hurdle purse in 2023 was £120,000, with the winning connections receiving £68,340.


The Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival has consistently evolved, cementing its place as a pinnacle event in horse racing. Looking ahead, the future of the Mares Hurdle appears bright, with increasing recognition of the talent and athleticism of mares in National Hunt racing. The continued involvement of top trainers like Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, and Gordon Elliott, along with the emergence of new talent, promises to elevate the race’s profile even further.

As the 2024 Mares Hurdle approaches, anticipation builds for what is expected to be a showcase of some of the finest mares in racing. Horses like Queens Brook, Maries Rock, and Brandy Love, under the guidance of their expert trainers and jockeys, are poised to deliver performances that could write new chapters in the race’s storied history.

For bettors and fans, the blend of experienced champions and promising newcomers offers a thrilling spectacle and the chance to witness horse racing at its best. The Mares Hurdle remains not just a race, but a celebration of the spirit and passion that define the sport of horse racing.