The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival has been raised to Grade One status as part of an overall upgrade to British Jump Pattern and Listed races for the 2014/15 National Hunt season.
The race was added to the Festival in 2008 and has been won for the last six years by Willie Mullins’ incredible race mare Quevega.
Although she has now been retired following defeat the Punchestown Festival, the strength in depth the Cheltenham contest has produced has allowed the upgrade from Grade Two to Grade One status to be approved.
Meanwhile William Buick is keeping his fingers crossed conditions at Ascot do not become too quick ahead of Eagle Top’s tilt at the Qipco-sponsored King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday.
John Gosden’s Pivotal colt put a disappointing handicap defeat at Leicester behind him with a brilliant display in the King Edward VII Stakes at the Royal meeting last month and is set to be pitched in against his elders for the first time this weekend having been supplemented at a cost of £75,000.
“He was very good at Ascot, obviously. Hopefully the ground won’t get too fast for Saturday. If it gets on the firm side, it wouldn’t really suit him,” Buick told At The Races.
“It’s a good King George this year, but the three-year-olds gets a good bit of weight from the older horses and he’s coming off the back of an impressive win in the King Edward.
“We’re all very much looking forward to it.”
One of Eagle Top’s main threats is likely to come from within his own yard in the shape of Epsom Oaks heroine Taghrooda, who is set to be ridden by owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s retained rider Paul Hanagan.
While Buick respects his mount’s stable companion, he said: “I’m happy to take her on.
“I’ve always had a lot of belief in Eagle Top and everyone in the yard is happy with him.”
With Hanagan likely to side with the unbeaten Classic heroine, Sheikh Hamdan’s second jockey Dane O’Neill will come in for the mount aboard William Haggas-trained Coral-Eclipse hero Mukhadram.
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