Why Willie Mullins Could Triumph in Mares' Races at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival

Published 2021/02/03

Why Willie Mullins Could Triumph in Mares' Races at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival

For the first time in Cheltenham Festival history, there will be three mares only races at the meeting this year. No trainer has had more success with that gender of horse here than Willie Mullins.

Besides landing the two mares' hurdle contests 14 times, the master handler has also won the Triumph Hurdle, Champion Bumper, and Champion Hurdle with females. Ahead of the new Grade 2 Liberthine Mares' Chase taking place at Cheltenham for the first time on Gold Cup day, it's no wonder that the first three in the ante-post market represent the Mullins stable.

The prospect of a clean sweep for the yard is a tantalising one. Mullins, who did the Cheltenham mares' hurdle in 2016 and 2018, has obvious claims of a treble win, and here's why.

Concertista has done nothing but improve since winning the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the second attempt at the Festival last March. She has easily defied penalties to win graded races in Ireland around Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.

Last year's Mares' Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle could end up running in the Champion Hurdle against the geldings at Cheltenham this time. That would leave the way clear for Concertista to give Mullins a record-extending tenth win in the race registered in the name of the late, great David Nicholson.

British-trained Roksana is another previous Mares' Hurdle winner she may have to contend with, but that rival has been running over longer distances this season. Concertista may have too much speed for Dan Skelton's charge and that is reflected in the current horse racing betting on this event by their prices.

Concertista is a 2/1 chance and Roksana four times those odds. Honeysuckle represents a bigger danger, according to the market, with Henry De Bromhead's unbeaten mare at 11/4.

Mullins has won all five previous renewals of the Dawn Run. In Gauloise, he has an impressive Listed winner who is also undefeated in three career races and heads the odds for the Grade 2 Cheltenham novice hurdle.

There are dangers to Gauloise in the form of Fairyhouse specialist Royal Kahala, but that Irish rival may wait for Easter and a Grade 1 novice hurdle at her happy hunting ground.

Mullins also had Shewearsitwell for this division, but a setback leaves her participation at Cheltenham in major doubt.

For the inaugural running of the Mares' Chase, the first three in the market hail from his stable. Mullins may or may not run all of them, but expect at least two to turn up if fit.

They are the JP McManus-owned Elimay, who gave Ryanair Chase fancy Allaho a race at Thurles, and Cheltenham Festival veteran Benie Des Dieux. The Mares' Hurdle hasn't worked out for her in the last two seasons, but she goes well fresh.

Benie Des Dieux has won over fences before and is unbeaten in three starts, but hasn't jumped one in public since February 2018. Grade 1-winning novice chaser Colreevy completes the strong Mullins hand here, but she may take on the geldings again. Such strength-in-depth among mares at one stable is quite remarkable.

There's every chance that Mullins will sweep the board with his female horses come the Cheltenham Festival.