Mares' Chase Tips: Concertista to hit the right note at Cheltenham
A small, but select field of classy mares will do battle in the Grade 2 Mares' Chase on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, and our man Steve Chambers previews the event and picks out his best bet here...
Elimay was narrowly beaten in this event 12 months ago, but the Willie Mullins-trained mare is back for another crack at the Mares' Chase, and the Closutton inmate is a prominent figure in the betting, and has to be a leading contender for glory. Just touched off by Colreevy in the 2021 renewal, Elimay has improved run-by-run this season, as having finished third to Zambella on her comeback run at Aintree, she then chased home Mount Ida on her second start, but she finally got her head in front last time out when bounding to a comfortable five-length win at Naas.
Sure to improve again for that effort, and with this having been the ultimate goal from the start of the season, she will get the chance to lock horns again with both the aforementioned duo of Zambella and Mount Ida, and it's the latter of that duo that could cause her the most concern.
A spectacular winner of the Kim Muir Handicap Chase at last season's Cheltenham Festival, Mount Ida produced a stunning last-to-first performance to rocket to that staying victory last March, and she is well fancied to go close here. A four-and-a-quarter length winner at Clonmel on her seasonal reappearance she then edged out Elimay in that Grade 3 at Fairyhouse, and she will be looking to repeat that feat here.
In what should be a superb duel between the pair, it would be a surprise to see Mount Ida frank the form, as she found herself well out of her ground last season, and over a significantly shorter trip (2m 4f) in this year's Mares' Chase, she may just lack the pace needed to score. There's no doubting Mount Ida will be staying on eye-catchingly well in the closing stages, but Elimay may just have scooted clear of that rival, so of the pair the Mullins raider is preferred.
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Hugely consistent, Zambella is available at double-figured odds for this contest, and she warmed up for this event with a facile 28 length win at Uttoxeter last time out. Sent off a 28/1 chance for the 2021 Mares' Chase, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained mare was a faller, so she will be hoping to show a better hand here, but she may ultimately come unstuck against classier rivals, and one that can certainly defeat her is Concertista, who is the second shot fired by the Mullins gun.
A stunning winner of the 2020 Mares' Hurdle, CONCERTISTA failed in her bid to retain that crown 12 months ago when finishing second to Black Tears, but she showed again that she produces her best form when taking her chance at the Cheltenham Festival, and she has to be the one to beat. Sent chasing this season, the eight-year-old has made a smooth transition to the larger obstacles as she has won both her chase starts impressively, and was last seen winning comfortably at Limerick.
While the likes of Mount Ida and Elimay have shown how good over fences they are, Concertista is sure to have some notable improvement in her, as she makes her third chasing start here, and providing she can get into a rhythm over her fences then she can scoot clear to claim glory.
Two wins in valuable handicap chases at Cheltenham this season has seen Vienna Court launch into the top class mares picture, but the Twiston-Davies mare failed to beat Pink Legend last time out, and that pair will lock horns again here. A return to Cheltenham can see Vienna Court reverse the form, but she may lack the class to live with the Irish raiders that can dominate this race.