Mares Chase Ante-Post Odds: Kettle to cause a boilover

Put The Kettle On won the Champion Chase in 2021.
Put The Kettle On won the Champion Chase in 2021.

We’ve nearly got all the entries for the 2022 Cheltenham Festival following the release of the Mares’ Chase and Mares’ Novice Hurdle this week. Joe Tuffin takes a look at the former and selects his best bet… 

The newest race on the Cheltenham Festival schedule may have underwhelmed this year with only 14 entries announced this week, but there is still the promise of a pretty hot race with some exciting names in the reckoning, none more so than Concertista.

The Willie Mullins trained mare has been a bit of an unsung hero for the master trainer over the years, with many glossing over her when recalling the superstars that have shone for Closutton, but she’s a hugely admirable racemare who has gone through the Cheltenham Mares’ program to a high level of success, with form of 212 in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (twice) and the Mares’ Hurdle itself. 

Having her first crack at the Mares’ Chase this year, she’ll arrive here off the back of an unbeaten Novice Chase season, recording back-to-back wins at Grade 2 level since early December. A very hard horse to oppose given her obvious Cheltenham credentials and very strong form, but plenty short enough at 5/2 at this stage and I’d more than happily take her on with a strong each-way bet. She has been highlighted however by our team as the Willie Mullins Cheltenham Festival banker, so should surely be featured in your final day accumulators.

Her closest opponent by the bookies reckoning is fellow Mullins raider (shock!) Elimay, a stunning grey who hasn’t finished outside of the top three since the 2019 Cheltenham Festival - 12 races ago. A second season chaser who was the fancy for this race last year as the 6/5 favourite but was narrowly denied in a thriller with Colreevy, she’ll return this year for another bite of the cherry - but doesn’t boast quite as strong form as she did going into this last year. She’s been seen three times this season and it’s fair to say it will have been her most disappointing season for a while, being turned over as the 2/5 favourite at Aintree as well as the EVS favourite at Fairyhouse, before finally getting her year started with a win in a fairly weak Listed race at Naas. She’s been beaten by both Zambella and Mount Ida this year and is worryingly excuseless for those defeats, making her opposable here, not least by the latter mentioned there who is currently the same price.

Mount Ida has thrived since switching to fences and has won some respectable races in this sphere, not least the Kim Muir at last year’s Festival. Unbeaten this season, she’s got an exciting spring ahead of her with entries here, in the Gold Cup and in the Grand National, though at 33/1 for the Gold Cup It would be a shock to see her line up in the blue riband event. I think she proved this season that she belongs on the high roller tables and probably has the outright measure of Elimay this year, but turning over Concertista would require a career best by quite some way and she doesn’t offer much each-way value at her current price.

The aforementioned Zambella may well do, however, at a pretty tempting 14/1, though her season - like most of her career - has shown signs of brilliance interjected with little inconsistencies. Just when she starts to string some nice wins together and you start to believe she can really kick on, she puts in an underwhelming performance, shown none more so than by a second-placed finish as the 4/11 favourite in a Listed event at Leicester when she only just managed to cling on to second. A brilliant mare with five Listed wins to show for it, but losing races such as that cannot just be glossed over if we’re talking about a potential Cheltenham Festival winner, and she’d have to really step up to feature.

One of the more interesting runners is the Gordon Elliott trained Riviere D’etel, who has made an exceptional start to her chasing career, winning at Grade 3 and 2 level, before back-to-back second-placed finishes in Grade 1 company. Her first second was a one-and-a-half defeat behind long-time Arkle favourite Ferny Hollow in what was a really admirable run, before finishing even closer to Blue Lord - who has since taken up Arkle favouritism since Ferny Hollow’s injury - in the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival. She would have likely won there too, but for a howler of an error at the final flight and trouble on the run in. I will be really disappointed to see her line up here to be honest, she has more than shown she deserves a shot at the Arkle and is currently slightly shorter for that event than she is here, so hopefully that gives us enough of an idea of her assignment. If for whatever reason she ends up here though, she will certainly be the fancy to turn over Concertista.

Henry De Bromhead has had a pretty low-key season compared to what we saw in 2021, and has two strong fancies for this race as he looks to turn the tide and regain his top trainer crown. Gin On Lime, who runs in the famous Bob Olinger colours of owners Robocur, boasts a near faultless form line and was last seen winning here in exceptional circumstances, with her and My Drogo both falling at the second last but Blackmore able to maintain her partnership to walk across the line for success in what was a dramatic event. We’re yet to see her since then, and with that form line all but useless for any meaningful clues due to the craziness of it, then we’re really only going off her win in October at Tipperary which, as impressive as it was, still leaves us guessing.

I’m more drawn to his other runner at the same price, a certain Put The Kettle On. She’s had a season which has had some questioning whether or not she’s gone at the game, but let's not forget she was winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase not even 11 months ago, and I can’t for a second have that she’s regressed so much in less than a year that she goes from a winner of one of the biggest races at the Festival to a double-figure price for a far weaker, Mares only, Grade 2. Still aged eight, she has run in both the Shloer Chase this year and the prior mentioned Mount Ida/Elimay race at Fairyhouse, which saw her tailed off in the turn for home. There is no excuse for this run other than yard form, but the truth of the matter is her form away from Cheltenham is always pretty poor. Since the start of 2019, her form away from Prestbury Park reads 3311112345, with the run of wins coming in lowly novice chases. Her form at Cheltenham in that same time period? 11113, including the Shloer Chase, the Arkle and the Champion Chase. There is no denying that this is her worst season yet and she was put in her place quite firmly by rivals she will repose here, but if De Bromhead can turn her and his stable form around, then we could be looking at one of the value bets of the Cheltenham Festival. It’s a risk of course, a gamble on the fact she’ll find her rhythm again and there’s no palpable evidence that suggests she will, but what a price 12/1 could be for a horse who has already won here, on many occasions and on far bigger stages - she simply has to be considered at this sort of price. She’s currently 20/1 for the Champion Chase, so this is her expected target.

The other runner of note is Alan King’s The Glancing Queen, who arrives for her fourth Cheltenham Festival aged eight. She has made a very pleasing start to live over fences with Listed wins at both Bangor and Warwick - the last of which was impressive enough - before a second placed finish over course and distance in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices' Chase on New Year’s Day. Beaten 10-lengths by L’Homme Presse that day, she showed she had all the enthusiasm for the game with an overall great round of jumping, but was exposed by a bit of a classier rival that day and could well face the same issue here.

Put The Kettle On to win the Mares Chase
Odds correct as of 2022-02-17 09:15 Odds subject to change.
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