Cheltenham Day 1: The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle

An introduction to the history of the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, with a statistical analysis review as well as a selection for the race

16.00 on Tuesday the 10th of March sees the return of the Queen-to-be Annie Power. Having been the princess to Quevega’s title; the Willie Mullins trained, Rich Ricci owned, grand-daughter of the fantastic Monsun is having her first run of the season in the race Quevega dominated for six years.

Annie Power has won eleven out of twelve races since her debut on the 4th of August 2012 at Galway. With speed in her pedigree she possesses a fantastic turn of foot, she can be ridden from the front or produced to challenge from behind. But what is it that makes a winning OLBG Mares’ World Hurdler?

The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, originally known as the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle until 2011, was introduced in 2008. It’s run over a distance of two miles and four furlongs (there are eight furlongs in a mile for those that don’t know). The race is open to mares that are aged four years or older, and it’s run over the old course at Cheltenham.

The race was originally named after the passing of David Nicholson in 2006. Nicholson was a successful national hunt jockey and trainer, winning five races at the festival as a jockey and seventeen as a trainer. Initially a grade two, the race has been upgraded to a grade one for this year’s running.

This year is the eighth renewal. Quevega has won the last six in a row, with Whiteoak winning the first ever running of the race at 20/1. That makes the statistical evaluation of the race difficult to interpret, but it’s worth noting anyway, as for the first time in six years it should be an open race and there could be some value in the market.

So rather than trying to identify the winner using Quevaga’s stats, as to find another mare that was as good as the festival banker would be near impossible. So by removing Quevega suddenly we have seven different winners. Whiteoak, United, Carole’s Legacy, Sparky May, Kentford Grey Lady, Sirene D’ainay and Glen’s Melody.

Without Quevega, there have been zero mares’ aged nine or over win the race, with four six year olds, one five year old, one seven year old and one eight year old winning the race. This gives six year olds a 57% win percentage of the races.

Once again, removing Quevega means that three British bred mares’ have won the race with four placing. Two Irish bred mares’ have won the race with nine placing. One French bred mare has won the race with one placing and one German bred mare has won the race (the only German bred mare to run in the race too).

It’s difficult to quantify the racing statistics due to the crossover between male runners and mare runners so i’ve looked at eight horses that finished in the top two from the seven races. Eight out of eight have finished in the top three in all of their last three outings, with all eight finishing in the top two last time out (six won the race), having run up-to fifty-five days before the race. Six of the eight posted a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 142+ last time out. Seven of the eight had won over two miles and four furlongs or two miles and five furlongs. Four out of eight ran in the Warfield Hurdle finishing in the top two in each of the races.

If you include Quevega then six of the last seven favourites have won the race, giving you a level stake profit of £5.36. Now without Quevega, all seven “winners” had run in two to five hurdle races between August of the year before and the start of the race.

So the profile of the selection that we are looking for is a mare that is five to eight years old, preferably six, and that has finished in the first three of their last three races, preferably winning last time out (but will accept top two), with that run coming fifty-days or less before the race. A mare that has posted a RPR of 142+ or more last time out, and has run in two to five hurdle races in the build up to the festival. The selection must have won over two miles and four furlongs winning a class one or graded national hunt race. The selection must have made their racecourse debut in a national hunt race and they must have finished in the first two of either the Warfield Mares’ Hurdle or the World Series Hurdle. And finally Willie Mullins should train the selection.

I have narrowed it down to five selections listed below in order:

Carole’s Spirit scored nine out of eleven (but came second in the Warfield so got 0.5 putting her top).

Glens Melody scored nine out of eleven.

Bitofapuzzle scored eight out of eleven.

Gitane Du Berlais scored eight out of eleven, however she is five years old and therefore is less preferable.

Annie Power scored eight out of eleven; I believe if she had had two runs this season, she would have scored at least ten out of eleven but the injury is enough to create doubt and at 4/5 it’s worth questioning. A large outsider that outscored eleven mares’ above her in the betting was Rock The Moor, with five out of eleven, worth a fun bet each way at 33/1.

So those are my selections; I’m assuming Gitane Du Berlais will run elsewhere so a combination tricast on Annie Power, Carole’s Spirit and Glens Melody could be the way forward!

Discussion feed

Up next in