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2016 Mares' Novices' Hurdle runners - Limini hot favourite for new Cheltenham Thursday race

Jon Wilde in Thur. 16th March 16 Mar 2016
  • The Mares' Novices Hurdle is a brand new Cheltenham Festival race
  • Check out the 17 runners for the 4.50 on St Patrick's Thursday
Tea In Transvaal (right) runs in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday (credit: Cheltenhampro.com)

Trainer Willie Mullins hopes Limini's jumping stands up to the test when she puts her tall reputation on the line in Thursday's Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

A smart performer on the Flat in France, the five-year-old beat a strong field on her hurdling debut at Punchestown last May and bolted up on her only subsequent start in a Grade Three contest at Fairyhouse in January.

Limini will be the hot favourite to complete a hat-trick in the inaugural running of this extended two-mile contest and while some of her jumping has not been convincing, Mullins believes she has improved in that department.

He said:
“Her form is very good and she shows us that at home as well. She has a fantastic pedigree - her dam is a half-sister to Vintage Tipple who won the Irish Oaks for my father. 
“Her Flat form in France has worked out very well. Nicolas Clement wanted to give her one more run in a Listed race, which I think he thought she would win, but he didn't. The horses she beat have gone on to win Group races. 
“Even though she jumped the way she did, she was still able to beat a fantastic field in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown very easily. 
“Her jumping has been way better this season and if she can handle the hurdles at Cheltenham, she has a fair engine.”

Owner Rich Ricci has already struck Festival gold with two mares this week, Annie Power landing the Champion Hurdle in brilliant fashion and Vroum Vroum Mag dominating her rivals in the Mares' Hurdle the same afternoon.

Ricci said:
“She doesn’t jump as well as those two mares (Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag) but she has some engine. She is very talented and works very well at home. She could be anything and we hope she has a big run in her.”

Danielle's Journey represents Stuart Crawford, while Gordon Elliott's pair of Water Sprite and Whistle Dixie complete the Irish-trained quartet.


Elliott said of Whistle Dixie:
“She was third to Willie's (Mullins) mare that they are all saying can't be beaten (Limini). On the day, Limini won very well but we came home with a few little problems. If we can rectify that, I'm not saying we'll beat her but she's a good mare.”

Heading the home team is Brian Ellison-trained Smart Talk, who has won a Listed event at Haydock Park and a Grade Two race at Doncaster on her last two starts.

Ellison said:
“All season she's never stopped improving. She's a big mare that loves racing and jumping. 
“She loves her work at home and tries really hard. At Doncaster when she won, Paddy Brennan said he had a job pulling her up. It was a great performance. 
“Her ideal trip is probably two-and-a-quarter miles but she's fast enough for two miles. 
“She definitely looks on the gallops like she's improving again. She's in great form and I think she's got a great chance. 
“She's definitely the best mare I've had. I can't wait for her to go chasing as she jumps great. 
“People are talking about the favourite being unbeatable but that's mainly down to her Flat form. She's got to jump hurdles well.”

Nicky Henderson runs Bloody Mary, Chocca Wocca and Robins Reef, while Alan King fires a couple of bullets with Awesome Rosie and Dusky Legend.

Other contenders in a 17-runner field include Evan Williams-trained Tea In Transvaal and Dan Skelton's Girly Girl.


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2016 Mares' Novices' Hurdle runners - Limini hot favourite for new Cheltenham Thursday race

Trainer Willie Mullins hopes Limini's jumping stands up to the test when she puts her tall reputation on the line in Thursday's Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

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