The Quevega Factor
When looking at the Mares’ Hurdle, I’m not going to use the same stats as I did when looking at other races. The reason for this is that Quevega won 6 of the last 10 races, so any win figures would be completely skewed by whether Quevega fit the criteria, as in turn would any win%, P/L(BF), and A/E figures. However, I still want to try to find an angle into the race, so I’m going to focus not only on the winners but also on the placed horses. So, my main way of taking on this race is by comparing the percentage of the total field which fit a stat to the percentage of the total places filled by these horses.
This race is (interestingly) run over 2m 4f. There’s no grade one hurdle run over a middle distance at the festival open to all horses (there is this race, for mares, and the Ballymore for novices) and the argument is that if they were to introduce one, it would dilute the quality of both the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers Hurdle (the latter doesn’t tend to be a particularly exciting division anyway and doesn’t need its quality diluted any more). A few weeks later, there’s a grade one over this trip at Aintree’s Grand National meeting so any horse which isn’t quite suited to 2 miles or 3 miles gets their chance there.
The distance is often a forgotten factor in this race, though. People forget that at 2m 4f, it is a test of stamina, not just pure speed like the 2m Champion Hurdle that takes place before it. All of the last 10 winners had won over this exact distance. These horses accounted for 18 of the total places – that’s 60% of the total places from 38% of the total field. If we were to count Quevega as just one winner for a moment, forgetting about her other 5 wins, this would be 52% of the total places from 37% of the total field – still an over-performance. Looking at horses which had previously won over 2m 4f or further, these horses took up 28 of the 30 total places on offer.
Britain v Ireland
All of the last 10 winners were Irish-trained (in fact, 9 of them were trained by Willie Mullins and the other, Apples Jade, moved to Willie Mullins’ yard from Michael O’Leary’s following the Gigginstown split). Irish-trained horses accounted for 18 of the 30 horses which made the frame – that’s 60% of the total places on offer from 27% of the total field. It would appear that the Irish have taken notice of the lucrative rewards that are now on offer for having top-class mares in training a bit quicker than the British. The form of the top-placed English finisher in the last 10 renewals reads 2224232342 – there’s often a British horse there or thereabouts, but there has always been a better Irish contender.
8 of the last 10 winners won last time out and these horses over-performed significantly, filling 60% of the total places from just 28% of the total field. This points back to some recurring themes in these top festival races – firstly, form, and secondly, class. The latter might be of even more interest. 9 of the last 10 winners were officially rated 150 or higher. These horses accounted for just 11% of the total field, but they managed to fill 50% of the total places. Just 19 horses have run in the race in the last 10 years were an official rating of 150 or higher, and their form reads 7213171111F21132173. Last year was actually the exception – the two contenders were Apples Jade (3rd) and La Bague Au Roi (7th). However, it is probably worth pointing out that Apples Jade clearly wasn’t at her best last year, and we were subsequently given the explanation that she was in season.