The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle is one of the newest races to be introduced at the Cheltenham Festival. Inaugurated in 2008, the race was originally intended to be a seventh race on the final day of the Festival, Gold Cup Day. From 2009 onwards it has been the fifth race on Day One – Champion Day.
The race as named in honour of legendary jockey and trainer David Nicholson, who passed away in 2006. Nicholson’s impressive record included five wins as a jockey at the Cheltenham Festival. When he retired to become a trainer he entered 17 winning horses in Cheltenham races.
The race was held on the New Course in 2008 but since moving to Day One has been run over the Old Course, with a race distance of two miles, four furlongs, and with horses leaping nine hurdles.
Quevega, Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins
The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle has been dominated by three characters throughout its short history – horse Quevega, jockey Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins. Although the race was won in 2008 by Jason Maguire on the Donald McCain Jr trained Whiteoak, the famous trio would go on to take victory for six consecutive years.
When Ruby Walsh and Quevega entered in 2009 they were billed as favourite and given short odds of 2/1. Over the following years the consistent success of the pair caused those odds to be shortened even further, to 6/4, 5/6 and 4/7 in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively and to 8/11 in 2013 and 2014.
The fifth race on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle follows on from the day’s feature race, the Champion Hurdle.
The race is open to fillies and mares aged four and above, with four-year-olds carrying a weight of 10st 10lb and those aged five and over carrying 11st 5lb.
Run on the Old Course over 4,023 metres with nine hurdles, the prize pot for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle stands at £100,000, with the winner taking home £56,270.
Statistics and trends
- The fastest winning time goes to Quevega in 2010 when she finished in 4 minutes and 45.4 seconds
- The favourite has won six times out of the eight races run to date
- The longest price for a winning horse was 20/1 for Whiteoak in the inaugural 2008 running
- As of the 2015 race, Willie Mullins has trained all but the first winner