Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle: A Guide to this Exciting Race

Mares’ Hurdle

While any kind of horse racing event can be exciting, nothing quite stacks up to the anticipation, excitement and adrenaline of the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle race. A true test of courage, skill and bravery in the saddle, this race has it all – from the fast-paced jockeys to the solid frames of the horses themselves.

But what exactly makes the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle so special? This guide is meant to be your primer to the most intense event the National Hunt Racing calendar has to offer. 

The History of the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle

The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race for female horses aged four and above. It is run at the famous Cheltenham Racecourse, which is steeped in centuries of racing history. The race was first contested in 2008, and since then it has grown to become one of the most exciting races of the year.

The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle was originally a Grade 2 National Hunt hurdle race and was upgraded to Grade 1 status in 2015.

Despite its relatively recent addition to the National Hunt racing calendar, the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle has become a major draw for punters worldwide. It takes on special importance among female horses competing in National Hunt horse racing and is seen as a potential route to success for many mares who have yet to contest the more prestigious hurdles and chase events.

With grade 1 status and a host of talented horses running each year, it’s no surprise that this race has grown to be so popular.

Mares Hurdle Previous Winners

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

Where and When the Race is Run

The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle, which is sponsored by the financial services provider, Close Brothers, takes place at Prestbury Park during the Cheltenham Festival. This exciting race usually takes place on the first day of the famous festival.

The event requires a unique set of skills in order to successfully negotiate 2 miles and 3 furlongs on an undulating track. While the stamina it requires to complete such a distance is high, the rapid terrain and hurdles make for an exhilarating spectacle that clearly showcase why this particular race is one of the most exciting events of the British National Hunt season.

Course conditions can have a real impact and we will discuss these in more detail in the next section along with a breakdown of the length and specific conditions of the race itself.

Given its perfect combination of thrilling course length, captivating terrain and prestigious event branding, it’s easy to see why millions of people around the world tune-in annually to catch all the action happening in Prestbury Park each year during this incredible week in March – truly making The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle one of the most spectacular races out there.

Course Conditions and Distance

The overall condition of the course can vary considerably according to the weather leading up to race day. Heavy rainfall usually results in soft or heavy ground conditions which can provide an extra challenge for participants. Conversely, dry weather tends to lead to good-to-firm ground so the going can often remain relatively consistent throughout the year.

Additionally, the spikey nature of the hurdles in this race require runners accustomed to jumping obstacles of such height. As such, riders will often refrain from participating when ground conditions become particularly challenging due to wet weather or other unforeseen factors.

The extended duration of this race can also present a challenge during adverse weather conditions, especially if there are strong winds hindering progress towards the winning post. A well-trained horse and experienced jockey are therefore essential for success in this highly competitive event.

Finally, as this race is for mares only, horses that have yet to reach their peak can also pose a threat setting them apart from some of the more experienced runners taking part in the competition. All these factors need to be considered carefully in order for participants to achieve success in this exciting race.

Horses, Jockeys and Riders

The Close Brothers Mares Hurdle is one of the most watched races in the National Hunt calendar, and inevitably, a large selection of horses, jockeys and jump racing riders take part in the event every year. Among them are some of the world’s best equestrians. The race usually attracts an elite group of talented horses, with several former champions among their ranks. All of them know their craft inside-out and tackle the unique terrain with skill and elegance.

Yet while it is true that the Open Brothers Mares Hurdle features some of the leading animals in the showjumping and racing circuits, there are also up-and-coming horses that have surprised fans over recent years.

The race has been dominated by Irish Trainer Willie Mullins and Irish Jockey Ruby Walsh. Ruby Walsh has won the race 9 times on Quevega (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), Vroum Vroum Mag (2016), Benie Des Dieux (2018) and Willie Mullins trained Quevega (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), Glens Melody (2015), Vroum Vroum Mag (2016), Benie Des Dieux (2018).

All in all, a combination of experienced competitors and fresh talent help make each edition of the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle not only unpredictable but full of excitement too. As such, it should come as no surprise to anyone why this race resonates so profoundly amongst fans of horse racing.


About Joe Kizlauskas

Joe is a seasoned iGaming copywriter and speaker who has been in the business since 2015. He's written more words on all elements of iGaming than he likes to remember, and he's contributed material to a number of well-known brands. Joe may be seen playing 5 a side, at the gym or playing games on his Playstation when he is not writing.