16:40 Cheltenham: Une Artiste the only serious rival to Quevega
Although hardly a punter’s friend at 4/7, there will not be many that would be too upset if Quevega landed the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle for a Cheltenham Festival record-equalling fifth straight year.
Quevega would emulate Golden Miller’s Cheltenham Gold Cup achievements in the 1930s if completing the five-timer and she is hard to oppose.
The nine-year-old is over 20lb better than any of her rivals based on official ratings and trainer Willie Mullins has scarily hinted that she may be even better than last year.
However, there will be some punters keen to take on Quevega on the basis that she must lose at some point and she may be slightly rusty having not raced for a year, although this fact has not hindered her in any other year.
Effectively, the remainder of the 19 entrants are running for second place and it is hard to think anything other than Une Artiste will chase Quevega home.
Une Artiste is 6/1 to win the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle and she is the only other horse in the field besides the favourite that has previously triumphed in any race at Cheltenham.
Furthermore, she has emerged victories twice in three starts on soft ground and won her only race over the Mares’ Hurdle trip.
Although she has been mopping up this season in slowly-run races in small fields, Une Artiste did take the Fred Winter at the last Festival and the pace that day was fairly quick.
The each-way alternative is Swing Bowler at 7/1, who has done nothing been improve all year and ran more than creditably behind My Tent Or Yours last time when losing her unbeaten record.
She is well versed at running in big fields this season too, which must be a positive, while connections must feel she has a chance given that this was initially her second choice for Cheltenham behind the County Hurdle.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.