This is one of the recently established races of the Festival since it was made into a four-day format. It was originally run on Gold Cup day until 2009 when it was moved to the opening day.
It’s run in the memory of legendary trainer David Nicholson, whose legacy at the Cheltenham Festival has lived on through the running of this unique type of race – the first of its kind that is strictly for mares.
Nicholson, who died in 2006, had a glittering career both as a jockey and later as a trainer, and thrived when the Cheltenham Festival came around.
As a jockey he was a hard but fair rider that carved out a remarkable career for himself despite not being associated with one of the big stables at the time. He enjoyed five Cheltenham wins between 1963 and 1973 but is more famously remembered for his 17 achievements as a trainer.
The man who was famously known for his sheepskin coat, red socks and large brandy, was a trainer to be feared and respected by all and was seen as a friend of the punters. His big wins included; successes in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (1994 & 1995 Viking Flagship), World Hurdle (Anzum 1999) and Gold Cup (1988 Charter Party).
Due to the recent nature of the race, past trends are pretty irrelevant for punters when trying to find the winner. However, it hasn’t taken a genius to work out the eventual winner in the past three runnings, with legendary mare Quevega, trained by Willie Mullins, landing the spoils on each occasion.
She’s due to line up again this year and it’s safe to predict she will be many people’s Festival banker once again.
Bring on the girls.
In fact, in recent years the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle has just been about one – Quevega – who is the outstanding mare of her generation and maybe of all-time.
Willie Mullins’ superstar has won three of the four runnings in 2009, 2010 & 2011. It’s safe to predict she will be many people’s Festival banker once again this year and it’s hard to argue with them.
Mullins has done an extraordinary job with this mare in that she doesn’t need a prep-run before going into a Championship race. For the last two seasons she has turned up at Cheltenham without having been raced for nearly eight months and still had enough in the tank to win comfortably on both occasions.
There had been talk after last year’s success that connections of the horse were tempted to switch the mare to take on the imperious Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle this season but Mullins quickly dampened those rumours. As he did with the prospect of switching her to two miles to take on the boys in the Champion Hurdle.
The so-called Queen of Cheltenham is still only eight so expect her to win here and then go on to win again at the Punchestown Festival in May.
Potential challengers are thin on the ground again, with many connections scared off entering their mares in the race because of the brilliance of Mullins’ superstar. However, one that might make a race of it this season is Voler La Vedette.
Form-book studiers will no doubt point to two defeats to Quevega when assessing her chances of upsetting the favourite but those meetings came two or more seasons ago and it is thought that Com Murphy’s mare has rapidly improved since then.
She has had problems with settling throughout her races but seems to have responded well to the application of a tongue-strap which has seen her win three races on the bounce in Ireland this year before bumping into a brilliant ride by Ruby Walsh aboard Zaidpour at Gowran Park when last seen