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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Let's hear it for the girls: a look back at Cheltenham Festival's leading ladies

Dawn Run and Jonjo O'Neill: captured the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup
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1 Dawn Run

The only horse to win both the Champion Hurdle (1984) and the Gold Cup (1986), the Paddy Mullins-trained Dawn Run is also the only horse to win the Champion Hurdles at both Cheltenham and Auteuil. Her Gold Cup victory under Jonjo O'Neill, when she looked beaten at the last but battled her way up the hill, has achieved legendary status.

It may seem ungallant to point out that her festival victories were facilitated by the newly introduced 5lb sex allowance. Her two best performances were both achieved at level weights – in the 1984 French Champion Hurdle and her 2m match with Champion Chase winner Buck House at Punchestown a month after her Gold Cup.

2 Glencaraig Lady

The third mare to win the Gold Cup, the Francis Flood-trained Glencaraig Lady met her male rivals at level weights when just prevailing in a desperate finish in 1972. She headed The Dikler in the final 50 yards and survived an objection from the rider of fast-finishing runner-up Royal Toss.

In the previous year's Gold Cup she had been in the lead and going strongly when falling three out, and in 1970 she had fallen at the last when leading in what is now the RSA Chase.

3 Anaglogs Daughter

Anaglogs Daughter proved herself the champion novice chaser of 1979-80 with a dazzling all-the-way 20-length victory in the Arkle Chase. No mare has ever won the Queen Mother Champion Chase but she might have done, instead of coming second to Drumgora in 1981, had the sex allowance existed then.

Anaglogs Daughter: a top novice chaser and second in the Champion Chase
She was an astonishingly tough mare, racing 107 times, and her best form was superior to Dawn Run's best form over fences. Her extravagant front-running style made her a public favourite.

4 Annie Power

In 2016 Annie Power became the fourth mare to win the Champion Hurdle, but only as a substitute after her Willie Mullins stablemate, reigning champion Faugheen, was injured. Favourite, she made nearly all the running and never looked in danger when beating My Tent Or Yours by four and a half lengths.

She lost on her other two festival starts, coming second to More Of That in the World (now Stayers') Hurdle in 2014, and falling at the final flight with the Mares' Hurdle at her mercy in 2015.

5 Kerstin

The second of the four mares to win the Gold Cup, Kerstin was of higher class than the first, Ballinode (1925), and in 1958 she got the better of a dour battle with Polar Flight by half a length.

Trained in Northumberland, Kerstin had been second to Linwell in the previous year's Gold Cup, and owed this win to the departure of both Linwell and Mandarin at the 13th fence. She scored another big Cheltenham victory in the 1959 Hennessy Gold Cup.

6 Flakey Dove

Following African Sister (1939) and Dawn Run (1984) as the third of the four mares to win the Champion Hurdle, Flakey Dove led at the final flight and showed her usual resolution to hold off Oh So Risky by a length and a half in 1994.

From Richard Price's small string in Herefordshire, she was not the classiest of Champion Hurdle winners – she had come only seventh to Granville Again in 1993 – but none exceeded her for toughness.

7 Mysilv

Mysilv ran with distinction in all her four festival races and won the first of them, the 1994 Triumph Hurdle. In the Champion Hurdle she made most of the running when fifth in 1995 and sixth in 1996, and two days after the latter effort she was runner-up to Cyborgo in the Stayers' Hurdle, just being edged out up the hill.

She also won the Tote (ex-Schweppes) Gold Trophy and was second in the French Champion Hurdle.

8 Flying Wild

In 1966 this bold-jumping grey mare, trained by Dan Moore for Raymond Guest, won the Cathcart Chase by 20 lengths, two days after coming a distant third to Flyingbolt in the Champion Chase.

But her main claim to fame was as the only mare to beat Arkle over fences – and she did so at Cheltenham's December meeting in the 1964 Massey-Ferguson Gold Cup. She held off Buona Notte by a short head with the supreme champion a length away third, conceding her 32lb.

9 Shuil Ar Aghaidh

The only mare to win the Stayers' Hurdle in the last 30 years, Shuil Ar Aghaidh started at 20-1 in 1993, yet she jumped ahead of front-running Pragada at the final flight and, relishing the fast ground, kept on to beat him by two and a half lengths.

The previous year this Paddy Kiely-trained mare had come sixth in the handicap that is now the Pertemps Final.

10 Quevega

The only horse to win six times at the Cheltenham Festival, Quevega scored all those victories in consecutive renewals of the Mares' Hurdle from 2009, showing remarkable consistency.

Quevega after winning her sixth Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham
But she was no champion. The Mares' Hurdle was a weak Grade 2 event during her monopoly, and the awkward fact is she was not even the best mare in Willie Mullins' yard. Stablemate Annie Power could have beaten her in 2014 but was diverted to the World Hurdle.

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She was an astonishingly tough mare, racing 107 times, and her best form was superior to Dawn Run's best form over fences
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