All you need to know as the mares take centre stage at Cheltenham on Thursday
As far as new initiatives go, Thursday's card at Cheltenham exclusively for fillies and mares – with £190,000 in prize-money on offer, is a cracker and that is reflected with seven highly competitive contests.
Indian Stream and Midnight Jazz, fourth and sixth behind Benie Des Dieux in the Mares' Hurdle at the festival, reoppose in a Listed handicap, in which Coral Cup fifth The Organist and the five-timer seeking The Delray Munky also feature.
Nicky Henderson saddles three runners on a card he is keen to support, Dame De Compagnie in the opener (2.05) Lust For Glory in the closer (5.35) and Melangerie in that red-hot race mentioned earlier (3.15).
He said: "Dame De Compagnie won well the first time and she was only narrowly beaten at Ascot last time, she's in good form. Melangerie would love the ground and two and a half miles is right for her. Lust For Glory ran well at Ascot and I think she's come on a fair bit for it. I hope the hill will suit her."
On the initiative as a whole the champion trainer added: "There's a lot of money and I had a lot more entered. It's a great idea. The incentives for mares have grown in the last few years and this is a big step forward."
Neil Mulholland runs two on the card, both of which will face a Henderson-trained rival. Indian Stream posted arguably the best performance of those to run at Cheltenham, but she has to give weight away all-around, while Queen's Magic has the assistance of Richard Johnson in the bumper.
Mulholland said: "Indian Stream ran a great race and has come out of it well. Fingers crossed she can do the same tomorrow. We're hopeful, she's done well in the past and if she can run as well as she did last time I'd be happy. Queen's Magic's come out of her win well too, I'm expecting a good solid race from her as well."
Oliver Sherwood's The Organist took on the boys in a handicap and was beaten just five and a half lengths off a 1lb lower mark and on her chances the trainer said: "She loves Cheltenham, will love the ground, she ran a blinder in the Coral Cup and she should have a live chance."
Sherwood also saddles Blameitalonmyroots (3.50) and Got Away (5.00) and added: "Blameitalonmyroots has been very disappointing this season, which is why we've gone for the blinkers. If it stayed sunny all day today and tomorrow and it's quick she wouldn't run. On her best form she'd have every chance and I'm looking forward to seeing her around Cheltenham.
"We're taking a gamble with Got Away by dropping back in trip. We thought it was the lesser of the two races and Cheltenham takes some getting. Her jumping's good and I hope this can be a stepping stone to Punchestown in a couple of weeks time."
Matt Sheppard is confident of The Bay Birch's chances in the Listed EBF/Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase. He said: "The race has cut up big time and it's a poor race for the money. I think she'd have won any of the three she was entered in the way they've cut up, but she's proven over two and a half, she seems very well and I've no reason to think she won't go on the ground.
"Everything about this race suits her perfectly and when you've got a horse like her that's way ahead of the handicapper it doesn't matter about the trip, if she's the best horse in the race she'll win it."
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