The Cheltenham Festival has been given another boost over the summer with the news that the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle has been been Grade 1 status for 2015. The Mares race was only introduced to the Festival back in 2008 but has grown into a popular event at Prestbury Park and with Grade 1 Status now attached, that interest is only likely to increase going forward.
There have been just the two winners of the Mares Hurdle in its seven year history with Whiteoak the first winner back in 2008. Since then though the contest has been dominated by the now retired Quevega who famously won the race back in March for the sixth year on a bounce which is a Cheltenham Festival record. Her retirement has now been confirmed though and it will be interesting to see who can follow in her illustrious hoof steps next season.
Quevega was a multiple Group 1 winner and it was her class that has seen the race upgraded for 2015. Trainer Willie Mullins will now be looking for a horse to follow Quevega and he may already have one in his stable in the form of Annie Power. The mare was second in the World Hurdle last season which was her first career defeat and with Mullins possessing a very strong team of young horses and with the Mares Race now a Grade 1 contest, Annie Power could well end up against her own sex in March.
Annie Power is the ante-post favourite for the Mares Hurdle while Glens Melody and Cockney Sparrow are also likely to be aimed at the Grade 1 race next March. Glens Melody was second behind Quevega last season and will surely be aimed at going one better and she, unsurprisingly, is another one of the star horses for Willie Mullins to go to war with.