EBF & TBA Mares “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Finale (limited handicap) Grade 2 2m4 1/2f Newbury Saturday – Following the heady fare of last week’s Cheltenham Festival, Saturday’s feature, The Mares Novices Hurdle Finale feels like something of an anticlimax, but it is always a pretty competitive affair that takes a useful performer to succeed. Nicky Henderson with three victories in the past decade has been the most successful handler, followed by Oliver Sherwood, who won with Jaunty Flight in 2008 and followed up with Argento Luna a year later. It has been a pretty punter friendly heat, with the winner coming from the first three in the betting on nine of the last thirteen occasions, and indeed the “Jolly” herself has come home in front four times.
Henderson’s representative this year is the lightly raced 7yo Kings Theatre mare, Theatre Territory. A winner in the point to point field she failed to win any of her three bumpers, but made a promising start to her hurdles career when easily winning a Uttoxeter maiden by 9L at odds of 4/9 in December (2m Gd/Sft). She probably found things happening too quickly over Taunton’s fast circuit on good ground three weeks later when a keeping on third to Coillte Lass in a Class1 listed Novices Hurdle. Given a greater test of stamina she looked the most likely winner when upped to 20 1/2f at Newbury three weeks later but fell two out when moving easily into contention. She meets the runner up in that contest, Pearl Royale on 3lbs better terms at the weekend. She disappointed last time finishing 4th of five runners in a Sandown Grade2, eleven lengths behind Saturday’s opponent, Happy Diva who finished second. This was not the ideal warm up for Saturday’s contest, a race in which the majority of winners have been first past the post in their penultimate outing, but it is worth noting that all of Henderson’s three previous successes were exceptions to this particular stat, and indeed his 2007 winner Karello Bay was beaten out of sight at odds of 2/5 before winning at Newbury. Theatre Territory is obviously fairly highly thought of at Seven Barrows and if putting in a clean round of jumping must be involved at the business end on Saturday.
With two winners already on the board, Oliver Sherwood certainly knows what is required, and his 5yo Hitherjacques Lady looks interesting. By Robin Des Champs out of a Bob Back mare her future probably lies over fences but she has won her last two races by wide margins in very taking style. She hacked up by 12L (Wincanton 21 1/2f heavy) at the beginning of Febuary and eighteen days later, again won very easily from subsequent maiden winner Carspindle, (Lingfield 19 1/2f heavy). Obviously well suited by heavy ground, she showed her versatility by winning a good ground Cheltenham Bumper last April, where she had Saturday’s opponent Tara View back in 6th place and Mr Sherwood has every right to be hopeful of a third victory in the race.
The Philip Hobbs trained Copper Kay seemed to appreciate the step up from 16f to 21f at Warwick at the end of December where, with the race at her mercy, she idled in front after the last, and got going again all too late to pull back Ellen’s Way who prevailed by a head. However the third was 12L further back and the Hobbs mare proved conclusively that the trip suited. She had a nice confidence booster, winning a 19 1/2f Doncaster Novice twenty two days ago very easily, so this seven year old daughter of Kayf Tara has to be on the shortlist for Saturday.
Alan King’s 6yo Tara View, also a daughter of Kayf Tara, has won her last four races, a Bumper at Bangor-on-Dee, and three Hurdle races at Ludlow. She beat Saturday’s opponent, Happy Diva by a neck in the first of them, over an inadequate two miles and meets her on a pound better terms at the weekend. She proved well suited by the step up to 21 1/2f five weeks later, winning by 1/2L from another of Saturday’s opponents Wizard’s Sliabh, who reopposes on 5lbs better terms on Saturday. Alan King’s mare however took another step forward seven weeks later, when contesting her first handicap, she prevailed by 2 1/2L off a mark of 124 (21f Ludlow Soft) earning her a new rating of 132. She looks a very progressive mare and the only concern would be very soft ground. With a fairly benign forecast she looks the one to beat.
Selection : Tara View
E.W. : Copper Kay