The fourth and final Grade One race to be staged on day one of the Cheltenham Festival is the Mares' Hurdle, named in honour of the late, great David Nicholson.
Here's our ante-post guide to the 2024 Mares' Hurdle
, including an early Cheltenham Festival tip.
2024 Mares' Hurdle Odds
|Echoes In Rain
👑 The Ante-Post Favourite 👑
With defending champion Honeysuckle now retired, the bookies are expecting Lossiemouth to succeed her as the star of the mares' division. Willie Mullins' filly enjoyed an excellent juvenile campaign last season, which culminated with impressive victories in the Triumph Hurdle and again at Punchestown.
The four-to-five season can be notoriously difficult for precocious juveniles. A possible Champion Hurdle
campaign has been mentioned for Lossiemouth, but I would be surprised if - for the reason mentioned above - Mullins threw his rising star into open company this season.
Very few five-year-olds have run in the Mares' Hurdle, but from the limited number that have in the last ten years, we've seen a winner - Apple's Jade - a second and a third from that age group, so Lossiemouth's youth cannot be regarded as a negative. She's got an enormous amount of ability.
⚠️ The Main Danger ⚠️
Sitting closest to Lossiemouth in the betting is her stablemate Ashroe Diamond, who progressed nicely during her first campaign over hurdles.
Willie Mullins started his mare off against the boys and Ashroe Diamond secured some creditable results, winning a maiden at Naas before finishing third behind future Grade One winners in both the Royal Bond and the Future Champions at Leopardstown. Ashroe Diamond then claimed a hard-fought victory in the Solerina in February, before rounding off her campaign with an impressive Grade One triumph at Fairyhouse's Spring Festival.
The Mares' Novices' Hurdle Final at Fairyhouse has been a springboard to stardom for the likes of Annie Power and Honeysuckle in recent years. Given her form behind Marine Nationale and Facile Vega last term, Ashroe Diamond is clearly very talented and there are no doubts as to whether she will see out the Mares' Hurdle distance.
♞ The Dark Horses ♞
It's been six years since Mullins last saddled the Mares' Hurdle winner and the Cheltenham Festival's
winning-most trainer will be eager to buck that trend in 2024. Lossiemouth and Ashroe Diamond are Willie's top two contenders at this stage, but I wouldn't be quick to rule out talented fillies like Gala Marceau
, or the older duo of Brandy Love
and Echoes In Rain
from mounting a challenge.
Last year's runner-up, Love Envoi was a no-show on her first trip to Punchestown, but her two previous runs at the Festival cannot be discounted. Mares' Novices' Hurdle winner, You Wear It Well acquitted herself fairly well when fifth behind Irish Point on her final start at Aintree and Jamie Snowden could take his stable star down the Mares' Hurdle route, if he doesn't fancy a crack at chasing.
Luccia bounced back from a slightly disappointing fourth at Cheltenham with a solid third behind Inthepocket back over two miles at Aintree and she certainly has the talent to progress into a Mares' Hurdle contender. Dan Skelton is no stranger to success in this contest, having won with Roksana in 2019 and, in Kateira and West Balboa, he could have two genuine contenders on his books for the upcoming season.