As with humans it is generally the case that males tend to be stronger and this is why horse races open to both sexes are generally dominated by males over females. This is especially true in jump racing where horses tend to be older, distances are longer, fences need to be jumped and stamina is often of big importance. This is reflected by the fact that often mares’ and fillies’ receive weight allowances in mixed races to help balance out the sex differences. Still, just as with jockeys, there are many females that can compete with boys and some who can exceed them.
The Cheltenham Festival has three mares’ only races that are of course restricted to mares’, the reasoning being that mares’ don’t win that many mixed races and by having dedicated races it helps to increase the participation of female horses in the sport. It also helps to encourage breeders to continue to breed racing fillies’ for the future, this was a big reason why the Liberthine Mares’ Chase was added in 2021, for example.
What we are looking at on this page, though, are mixed races at the Cheltenham Festival that have the highest percentage of mares’ that win. Below we look at data from the year 2000, or from when the race was established if later than 2000, this is to try and give a reflection of the modern trends in these races. The idea being if you plan to back the girls at the Festival it can naturally help to find the races that fillies’ and mares’ do the best in.
Festival Races Won The Most By Mares’ & Fillies’
|Race||Mare Win Percentage||Grade|
|Juvenile Novices' Hurdle||24%||Grade 3|
|Champion Bumper||14%||Grade 1|
|JCB Triumph Hurdle||10%||Grade 1|
|The Champion Hurdle||10%||Grade 1|
|Coral Cup||10%||Grade 3|
|Marsh Novices' Chase||9%||Grade 1|
|Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle||8%||Class 2 Hurdle|
|Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup||5%||Class 2 Chase|
|Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle||5%||Grade 3|
|Plate Handicap Chase||5%||Grade 3|
First of all it is worth pointing out that even in the race where mare’s perform the best, the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle, they still win less than 1 in 4 races. Therefore, when backing a mare in a non-mares’ race it is always a tough task to find a winner, although you will tend to find that reflected in the odds so if you do find the right girl to back it can often pay off.
It is worth bearing in mind that less mares’ enter these races to begin with too, so naturally there will be proportionally less female winners. Generally if a mare is entered into these races it will be because the trainer genuinely believes it can compete so they are always worth keeping an eye on.
The races that mares’ do the best in are hurdles, due to the fact that hurdles are easier to jump than the fences in steeplechases and hurdle races tend to be shorter with less obstacles compared to chases. Indeed, all of the top five races in the table are hurdles and all of the top four are under 2 and quarter miles long with 8 or less hurdles to be jumped.
It is no surprise that the top race in the table is a Juvenile race, as the younger the horses are the easier it is, generally, for the mares’ to compete at the same level. Likewise it is not a shock to see the race second on the list is the Champion Bumper, being a flat race for younger horses with no obstacles to jump it favour speed over stamina. Even in this situation we are only seeing 14% of winners despite a 7lb allowance for fillies’ and mares’.
The big race where mares’ perform the best is the Champion Hurdle, with 1/10 winners being a mare since 2000, here mare’s have a 7 pound allowance. The best steeplechase at the festival for the girls is the Marsh Novice’s Chase, which again offers a seven pound allowance for mares’.