For the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, a new race has been added to the schedule to finish off Day Three.
St. Patrick’s Thursday, which until 2015 was a six-race day, now includes the Mares Novices’ Hurdle, the second race of the event to be for mares only. The race will take place over the New Course at a distance of 2 miles and 1 furlong, and takes the total number of races run at the Cheltenham Festival up to 28.
The race is a Grade 2 event, and is sponsored by Trull House Stud for its inaugural running. The introduction of the race, which comes with a total prize purse of £75,000, comes as the only other mares’ race the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, is promoted to Grade 1 status.
Reactions to the new addition
Reactions to the addition of the Mares Novices’ Hurdle within the horse racing industry have been positive, with many breeders, trainers and bookmakers delighted for another opportunity to showcase mares, while for jockeys and owners the race represents a chance to gain a share of the new prize purse.
Punters have been less enthusiastic, with some expressing doubts about dilution of quality and about the effect the race could have on the other mares’ race of the Festival: the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle.
However, with the first race yet to be run, it remains to be seen whether or not this will be a welcome addition to the Festival. Watch this space for updates on the entrants in 2016 as they become confirmed. What the new addition does mean is that bettors will now be able to enjoy a full seven-race schedule on each day of the Festival.