If you go back over a decade, the number of
mares in racing was a great problem and since that, the horse racing
authorities in the UK & Ireland have worked on a number of things to fix
that. It has certainly worked, and we have three mares only contests at the
Cheltenham Festival to give them something to aim at.
However, the best two mares heading to the
festival will not be going to any of those races. Instead, we have a clash of
the mares in the Champion Hurdle, with 2020 winner Epatante
going up against Irish mare Honeysuckle.
Mares currently receive a 7lb allowance
against the boys, and both receive that in the big contest. Epatante used that
to her advantage last year, though she would more than likely have won the race
even without it. But who will take top honours this time around?
One of the Biggest Clashes of the Festival
There is no doubt that the feature race on
day one of the meeting will be one of the most anticipated of the four days. It
is always a race that attracts interest and bets, with people using best betting sign up offers
early in the meeting to get their rewards for that day and the following three.
Many of those bets placed will go on these
two mares, and the likelihood is that one of them will come out on top.
Epatante won the race last year, and from
the moment she did until right now, she has been favourite to win again in
2021. This season we have seen her twice, she was electric at Newcastle,
putting her name in the horse racing news
on return but then disappointed at Kempton when she was beaten in December.
Given time to get over that, the hope is
that she comes here fresh and capable of doing herself justice. She can be a
little edgy at the start of a race, so having no crowd on course will certainly
Then we have Honeysuckle, who has looked better than ever this season and is thoroughly deserving of the chance to compete in this race. She won the mares champion hurdle at the festival in 2020, which is a race over 2m4f.
This season she came back over 2m4f but
then dropped to 2m and that was probably her most impressive performance yet.
She has the speed to match good horses over the minimum trip, and the stamina
to run over further, which makes her the ideal horse for the test we see at
Cheltenham. If you only just stay the trip at Cheltenham, you are more than
likely in trouble.
Who wins this race remains to be seen, and much
will depend on how the two mares handle the occasion on the day. Both are
excellent animals though, and would more than likely still be the two clear
favourites even if the 7lb mares allowance wasn’t in place, showing just how
talented they are.