The British Horseracing Authority announced in mid-August of 2019 that there would be a new Grade 2 race introduced at the Cheltenham Festival from 2021 onwards. The race will be run over 2 and a half miles and will be for mares only, meaning that it will join the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle as being races run during the Festival that are exclusively for female horses. It will also join the former of those two races in being a Grade 2 race, whilst the OLBG is a Grade 1.
It was a decision that delighted Nicky Henderson, who believes that it will encourage owners to give their mares a run at the Festival when they might not have done so otherwise. He said, “There are undoubtedly more and more high class mares coming through the system and going chasing, and this would obviously be further encouragement for owners and particularly owner/breeders to race their good mares over fences”.
What Race Will It Replace?
At the time of writing no decision had been taken regarding which race the new one would replace, which Ian Renton, a Regional Director of The Jockey Club for Cheltenham and the South West, believes will lead to ‘much debate’. The decision to introduce it from 2021 onwards has been taken in order to give breeders, owners and the trainers that they use plenty of time to think about whether they have a suitable mare for the race and to develop top-class entrants.
The decision to introduce the race came on the back of continued progression of the development of mares in recent times. The Director of International Racing and Racing Development at the British Horse Racing Authority, Ruth Quinn, said that the addition of the race to the Cheltenham Festival programme was an ‘endorsement’ of the progress as well as giving those that are thinking of buying or racing a mare ‘something to aspire to’.
The belief is that the introduction of such a race will likely lead to ‘behavioural change across the spectrum’ and eventually have an impact on the ‘quality of jumping mares’.