Horses to Follow for the First Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival


“Cheltenham racecourse” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06 

Since 2008, mares only races have been part of the Cheltenham Festival. Much has been done for their programme in the intervening years, and the culmination of that is the introduction of a steeplechase in 2021. 

It is not yet clear which race of the 28 that take place during the four-day extravaganza in March will be axed to make room for the mares’ chase on the schedule. A handicap rather than Grade 1 is far more likely, though. 

This begs the question which mares are worth following en route to the next Cheltenham Festival? Here are some that may be targeting this historic first in 2021. 


Irish trainer Willie Mullins has dominated the mares’ hurdle races at Cheltenham. He will want to win this as well, so you can expect multiple raiders from his County Carlow stables here. 

Typical French import Salsaretta is unbeaten in four starts over fences and the pick of her hurdles form isn’t too shabby either. She beat a subsequent Grade 1 winner at Limerick’s Christmas Festival in 2018. 

The only negative surrounding Salsaretta is her past Cheltenham form, but that doesn’t stop bookmakers having her as 6/1 favourite for mares’ chase glory. Owners Rich and Susannah Ricci are big supporters of Mullins’s yard, and know she was bred to come into her own in this sphere. 

Put The Kettle On 

As previous and today’s racing results from Paddy Power will tell you, Put The Kettle On is one mare with a fabulous around Cheltenham. Trainer Henry De Bromhead masterminded a rare Arkle Trial and Arkle Challenge Trophy double with her this past season. 

Put The Kettle On was sent off unfancied on both occasions, taking on more high-profile horses. Having proven herself against the geldings in stunning fashion, not once but twice, she has to be respected and the mares’ chase looks the obvious target for the 2020-21 season with her. 

That is reflected in odds of 8/1 for Put The Kettle On to record a third win at Cheltenham come next year’s Festival. She represents a big danger to her fellow Irish raiders from the Mullins stable. 


JP McManus has a lot of racehorses, but among the hundreds carrying his famous yellow and green hooped silks is Elimay. This grey mare is another trained by Mullins that looks to have the Cheltenham Festival mares’ chase as a long-term career target in mind, and is a 10/1 chance. 

Since coming sixth in the 2019 Mares’ Hurdle at the meeting, Elimay has won all four subsequent starts. A switch from hurdles to fences has also seen her take her form to a new level after landing graded contests at Cork and Thurles. 

Benie Des Dieux 

Mullins and the Riccis also have Benie Des Dieux together. She is unbeaten in three starts over fences and is an older mare with options. 

Having contested the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in each of the last three years, Benie Des Dieux may appreciate the longer trip of the Stayers’ Hurdle or a return to steeplechasing in this. 

At 14/1 for the mares’ chase, Benie Des Dieux completes what looks a very strong hand in the ante post hand for Ireland in the inaugural race. The shortest price potential British runners – Happy Diva and Lady Buttons – are both double figure odds. 

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