Saturday's star-studded card at Newbury gives us the first post-Cheltenham chance of a real punting feast, with the EBF Mares’ Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final promising to be a bettors treat.
The Newbury betting for this Mares' Final throws up The White Mouse (4/1 Karamba) as favourite, a mare who’s had just the four starts, but two wins at 2m3.5f. The last of those came in what was essentially a match race at Doncaster against the useful Oscar Rose, but she did it well and her early defeat of Dulhallow Gesture back in November now reads very well indeed. A big field ought to help her plenty and she appeals most out of those at the top of the betting for this Newbury test.
She Mite Bite (11/2 MoPlay) comes next in this Newbury betting heat, aiming to keep up the high flying fortunes of trainer Nicky Henderson, after a fine week at Cheltenham.
She was brought down three out at Ludlow last time out, when yet to be asked for her full effort, trying 3m for the first time. That indicated that she was going to put in an improved effort compared to her Sandown second, which earned her a mark of 116, and she may well step up to the plate again at Newbury.
Of the favourites, The White Mouse looks the best bet, but it was also a fine Cheltenham for the Skeltons, Harry and Dan, who had two winners between them and team up with Etamine Du Cochet (15/2 Sportnation) on Saturday. The five-year-old front runner didn’t manage to go fast enough to command the race at Uttoxeter last time, but will get more assistance this time around and, assuming the ground stays decent, is likely to be another big player.
The best form in the race might well be Off The Hook’s (11/1 Karamba) shock third in the Abram Listed Mares' Hurdle at Haydock. She was a game and deserved winner at Ayr a month later, when she found the race developing too slowly for her. That ought not to be the case at Newbury. Look for her to run a big race at each-way odds.
Annie Mc (9/1 Sportnation) didn’t appear to handle the penalty that the handicapper gave at Exeter after a wide margin win at Chepstow - success might have come at the wrong time for her, if the Mares' Final was the target.
So Lonely (18/1 BetHard) has had her jockey booked for sometime; This is the combination of jockey Bridget Andrews and trainer Dan Skelton, who won this race last year, and last week won Cheltenham's County Hurdle with Ch'tibello - owned by So Lonely's owners.
Sixty’s Belle (12/1 888Sport) is a maiden still and making her handicap hurdle debut, but put in her best effort at Huntington over 2m3f last time out, when running second to the talented Loveherandleaveher. This will not be an easy task, but she is respected coming into a handicap for trainer Nicky Henderson and could easily be on the premises.
Millarville (14/1 Bethard) looked good in winning her maiden hurdle at Fontwell but has since run poorly without explanation. This step up in trip shouldn’t rule her out entirely, but she might have more to prove than others, even by the standards of this field.
Oscar Rose (12/1 RedBet) was plainly outflanked on the speed front when facing The White Mouse at Doncaster last time out, but this situation ought to suit her more than what became a dash up the straight, and she has to be respected in this company.
Our Dot’s Baby (16/1 888Sport) has won two of her five career starts already and was a winner at Newbury last time out. She is definitely a horse in good form at the moment, but at the age of seven does not fit the usual age profiling for this race- unless she does a Briery Queen (2016).
The EBF & TBA Mares' National Hunt Novices' Hurdle Series Final, to give it its official title, is the last race of the season that brings together mares that have run in an EBF Mares' National Hunt Novices' or Maiden Hurdle qualifiers throughout the season.
By finishing in the first six of one of the above races, they qualify for the Mares' Final - a handicap hurdle run over 2m4.5f at Newbury for a prize pot of £40,000.
Notable winners include the mighty Roksana, who won the Cheltenham Mares' Hurdle at the Festival last week. The likes of Briery Queen, Kalane and Polly Peachum are all winning names that fans of the National Hunt game will also instantly recognise.
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