Monday 2 January 2023

Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle

The Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle race run over 2 miles, 3 furlongs and 200 yards on the Old Course at Cheltenham in March. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to mares, aged four years and upwards, and is currently scheduled as the fifth race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle is a relatively recent addition to the Festival programme, having been inaugurated in 2008, although it was switched from the New Course to the Old Course, and from the last day to the first, the following year. Initially a Grade 2 contest, the race was promoted to Grade 1 status in 2015.

The Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle is officially registered as the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle, in memory of the late David 'The Duke' Nicholson, who died of a heart attack in 2006. Nicholson was a successful National Hunt jockey and an even better trainer; he saddled 17 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including the 1988 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Charter Party, and won the National Hunt Trainers' Championship twice, in 1993/94 and 1994/95.

Willie Mullins is the most successful trainer in the history of the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle, thansk in no small part to the prolific Quevaga, who won six consecutive renewals between 2009 and 2014. Mullins added Glens Melody (2015), Vroum Vroum Mag (2016) and Benie Des Dieux (2018) for a total of nine wins altogether. Looking forward to the 2023 renewal, due off at 4.10pm on Tuesday, March 14, former champion hurdler Epatante, trained by Nicky Henderson, currently heads the ante-post betting, but is closely attended by the promising Brandy Love, trained by Willie Mullins.

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