The 2016 Cheltenham Festival will feature an extra race on Thursday’s card to be known as the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
The Grade 2 contest, which will be run over two miles and a furlong for fillies and mares aged four and up, will replace the St Patrick’s Day Derby charity race. Owner/breeders Richard and Lizzie Kelvin Hughes, who have enjoyed success with National Hunt mares such as Chomba Womba and My Petra, are to sponsor the race, which is worth £75,000.
Simon Claisse, South West Regional Head of Racing for Jockey Club Racecourses, welcomed the introduction of a new race for mares and said: “Following discussions with a number of owners and trainers with regards to possible races to be added to the Festival, the primary feedback very much supported a mares-only contest.
“With the great success of the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, which was promoted to Grade 1 for this year’s renewal, and the recent promotion of the mares’ National Hunt Flat race at Aintree to Grade 2 status in 2016, it was concluded that the introduction of a mares’ novices’ hurdle at next year’s Festival was appropriate and we are very grateful to the British Horseracing Authority for having allowed the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle to start out with Grade 2 status.
“Richard and Lizzie Kelvin Hughes are great supporters of jump racing and we are very pleased they are sponsoring the new race through their Trull House Stud.”
Richard Kelvin Hughes, who has entered a Milan colt out of his Grade 2-winning chaser My Petra at Sunday’s TBA National Hunt Foal Show, added: “We are delighted to support this new race as our interest in National Hunt is very much through our breeding to race. Essential to this is the Festival, so a more rewarding programme for mares benefits all breeders at all levels.”
Nicky Henderson, the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival also voiced his support for the announcement.
He said: “I am not surprisingly delighted to hear not only that there is going to be a 28th race at The Festival, but particularly that it is going to be a mares’ novices’ hurdle which will be an enormous boost to the National Hunt breeding fraternity.
“The introduction of a mares’ novices’ hurdle as the part of the expansion of black-type opportunity for mares is another great incentive for National Hunt breeders and can only be of benefit to National Hunt racing as a whole.
“We have been lucky enough to have trained a number of high-class and successful mares over the years both with home-breds and those bought at public auction and this new race, sponsored by such great supporters of National Hunt racing and breeding, Richard and Lizzie Kelvin Hughes at Trull House Stud, is great news.
“Indeed, we currently have what I hope are two top prospects and high-class young mares in Richard and Lizzie’s homebred Chocca Wocca, out of their great racemare Chomba Womba, and Robins Reef, also part-owned by Ronnie Bartlett. They both looked very high class when winning their bumpers last spring and let us hope they are the right material for this very exciting new opportunity for the National Hunt fraternity. I am sure that the race will be well supported and competitive.”