It is a simple fact of racing that the majority of the most successful jumpers are colts, geldings and horses. Horses are males that are over four and have their genitalia intact and they are often stronger and quicker than their female counterparts. That isn’t exclusively the case, though, and a few female horses have won big races in the past.
Even so, male horses dominate the industry and so some race meeting organisers have decided in years gone by to make sure that mares get a fair crack of the whip. The result is that there are a serious of races exclusively aimed at mares, allowing those within the industry to look out for the most talented ones.
Mares’ Races At The Cheltenham Festival
|Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle||2m 179y||Grade 2||£88,500|
The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle
|2m 3f 200y||Grade 1||£120,000|
Mares’ Races At Other Cheltenham Meetings
|Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||2m 179y||Class 2 Open Flat||£15,000|
|Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Handicap Chase||2m 62y||Class 2 Chase||£25,000|
|Mares' Handicap Chase||3m 2f||Class 3 Chase||£21,400|
|Mares' Handicap Hurdle||2m 4f 56y||Listed||£25,000|
|Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase||2m 4f 127y||Listed||£40,000|
|Mares' Novices' Hurdle||2m 4f 56y||Listed||£25,000|
|Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||2m 87y||Listed||£22,000|
|Mares' Handicap Chase||2m 4f 127y||Class 3 Chase||£14,750|
|Mares' Handicap Hurdle||2m 4f 56y||Class 2 Hurdle||£29,500|
|Mares' Open Hunters' Chase||3m 1f 56y||Class 4 Chase||£6,200|
Mares’ Races Information
As with pretty much every topic we’ve covered on these pages, there isn’t a huge amount that makes a race specifically for mares. Races don’t necessarily have to be run over a certain distance or feature a given number of obstacles in order to fit into the category, with the only defining factor being that the are limited to older female horses.
There are mares’ races that are run over hurdles and others that takes place over steeplechase jumps; the what and the where aren’t relevant. The important thing to remember is that mares are able to take part in open races that aren’t restricted to colts or geldings, whilst colts and geldings can’t take place in races that are restricted to mares.
The age of the horse is also important. Mares are female horses that are over the age of 4. They can be inexperienced in different ways, perhaps being a novice or entering into a maiden race, but they are always 4 or older and female. They are the chief restrictions put in place by the British Horseracing Authority on mares’ races.
Examples Of Mares’ Races
As always, the best way of getting the point across about how different races can be whilst still coming under the bracket of being a ‘mares’ race’ is by looking at some specific examples. As you read through, look out for things like the length of the race, the number of obstacles involved and whether they’re hurdles, jumps or neither.
David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle
One of the races that is run during the Cheltenham Festival and is exclusively for mares is the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle. Run over 2 miles, 3 furlongs and 200 yards, it features 10 hurdles during its running. The following weight information is at play:
- 4-year-olds: 10 stone 10 pounds
- 5-year-olds and over: 11 stone 5 pounds
Named in honour of the former jockey and trainer David Nicholson, who won five times as a rider at the Festival and saw 17 of the horses that he’d trained win, the race was first held in 2008. A Grade 2 initially, it was promoted to Grade 1 from 2015 onwards.
Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
A race for female horses that don’t have much experience or racing hurdles, this race is named in honour of Dawn Run and was established in 2016 when the Cheltenham Festival was expanded to have 28 races. Run over 2 miles and 179 yards, the following weight information applies:
- 4-year-olds: 10 stone 8 pounds
- 5-year-olds and over: 11 stone 2 pounds
- Class 1 Weight-For-Age hurdle race winners receive a 5 pound penalty
- Class 2 Weight-For-Age and Class 1 handicap hurdle race winners receive a 3 pound penalty
There are eight hurdles in the race, which has enjoyed several sponsors since it was first introduced to the Festival. Run left-handed on the New Course, it is open to female horses aged 4 and over.
Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race
As if to prove the point of how different the various races can be, the Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race also takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse, albeit in November rather than during the Festival, and is run on the flat under National Hunt race conditions. It is open to female horses aged between 4 and 6.
The weight for the horses is 11 stone and zero pounds, though Class 1 race winners are given a 4 pound penalty. Run over 2 miles and 87 yards, it was inaugurated in 2013 and takes place left-handed on the Old Course.
Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race
Moving away from Cheltenham now, the Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race is run at Aintree Racecourse during the Grand National meeting. It is another example of a race without jumps but run under National Hunt conditions, this time take place over 2 miles and 209 yards.
It is for female horses aged between 4 and 6, with the following weight information used:
- 4-year-olds: 10 stone 8 pounds
- 5 and 6-year-olds: 11 stone 0 pounds
- Grade 1 and Grade 2 race winners are given a 4 pound penalty
The race is named in honour of Nickel Coin, the mare that most recently won the Grand National at the time of writing. When you consider that she did so in 1951, it really does show how much the major races are dominated by male horses. First run as a Listed race in 2005, it was given Grade 2 status in 2016.
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Finale
Run at Newbury over 2 miles, 4 furlongs and 118 hards, this race is aimed at female novice hurdlers. It is the final race of the novices’ hurdle series for mares and asks participants to jump 10 flights of hurdles during its running.
It took place for the first time in 2003 and was promoted to become a Grade 2 offering in 2017. Scheduled to take place in March each year, it is one of Newbury’s premier races for mares.
Houghton Mares’ Chase
Run at Carlisle Racecourse over 2 miles and 4 furlongs, the Houghton Mares’ Chase was introduced in 2015 and is aimed at 4-year-olds and over. It is the race that proves how different races for female horses can be, given that it boasts 16 fences rather than the hurdles that the other races we’ve looked at offer.
The race is a good opportunity for owners and trainers to put their mares through their paces at the start of the jump racing season, traditionally taking place in late November or early December. It was a race that was brought into being when the British Horse Racing Authority decided to improve its calendar for mares.