27 Mar

Philip Sale | Sunday March 27 2022, 6:46pm | Racing Comment

At the time of writing Concertista can be backed at 12/1 with Sky Bet for the Mares' Chase.

Scarlet And Dove can be backed at 20/1 with bet365, Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook for the same race.

What to make of this year’s Mares’ Chase? Although not having the smoothest of passages and showing admirable tenacity to win, Elimay only just touched off a mare rated 18lb her inferior. Meanwhile, a nose behind runner-up Pink Legend was Scarlet And Dove, and were it not for her 3lb penalty she would surely have won. She emerges as the best of these at the weights.

Almost exactly one year prior to this, Scarlet And Dove won Limerick’s Grade 2 Mares’ Novice Chase, beating the now 132-rated chaser Minx Tiara by seven lengths. Who could have foreseen that the penalty for this bloodless victory (she went off 8/11 favourite) would cost her the 2022 Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival?

As focus turns to next year, we can of course expect new mares to come to the party. At the forefront of the early market is Riviere D’Etel, who certainly has the class, but one must wonder whether we will see her at Cheltenham again given her tendency to jump right in this year’s Arkle. 

Riviere D’Etel threw away her chance and, coincidentally, the same can be said of her stablemate Mount Ida, vanquished in this year’s Mares’ Chase after predictably jumping right throughout. If either mare takes their chance next year, evidence suggests they should be opposed. 

As for the admirable Pink Legend, given the form of Venetia Williams' string during the festival, she appeared to be yet another to outrun her odds but wouldn't necessarily be trusted to repeat the feat next year. 

 "It is entirely likely Willie Mullins ran Concertista on the premise that whatever she achieved in the race, her year will be next year."

One quirk of the Mares’ Chase is that there is, of course, no novice chase at the festival constricted to mares only. Consequently, less-experienced mares can quickly be fast-tracked to open company and just as quickly exposed in the heat of battle. There is little doubt Concertista has the requisite class for this race, having hammered her opposition to win the 2020 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and narrowly missing out to Black Tears when beaten a head in last year’s Mares’ Hurdle. 

Although finishing fifth, a lack of experience caught Concertista out this year, particularly with regard to her jumping. A relative newcomer to the code, she appeared to be taken out of her comfort zone from an early stage. 

Going off at 2/1, Concertista always had the feel of a ‘false favourite’, particularly given the experience of the four mares who finished immediately ahead of her. Elimay had run nine times over fences, Pink Legend 13, Scarlet And Dove 11 and Zambella 12.  It is therefore likely Willie Mullins ran Concertista on the premise that whatever she achieved in the race, next year will be her year. Just like Elimay before her, she should not be written off after defeat. 

It is assumed that two of Mullins’ better novice hurdlers in this year’s mares division – Allegorie De Vassy and Brandy Love – will also be campaigned over fences next season. The former has the scope for the job, whilst the latter already has point-to-point experience. Neither made it to the festival this year but it would nevertheless be dangerous to write off them off. However, on the basis experience is key, Concertista could prove a tough nut to crack.

Although both will be nine years of age, Concertista and Scarlet And Dove rate as solid bets, given current prices. Scarlet And Dove is the more tentative selection, but it must remembered she remains a relatively lightly raced mare who very nearly won this year’s renewal, but for her penalty. Few are better at targeting a race than Joseph O’Brien and she has it in her to take revenge.

Image: Carine06 from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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