At time of writing, Nicky Henderson’s Luccia is Betfred’s antepost favourite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle ahead of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival – but is she really the one to beat?

The five-year-old is undefeated in three starts having won a couple of bumpers last season and her sole run over hurdles this term – a Listed contest at Newbury in late November – but hasn’t been seen in months due to missing the G1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle in January due to an unsatisfactory scope.

Although she did look very, very good at Newbury and clearly possesses immense talent, Luccia’s inexperience and fragility make her opposable at current odds of 11/4.

Her closest rival in the betting is Ashroe Diamond for Willie Mullins at 4/1. The six-year-old daughter of Walk In The Park has ran three times this season, placing in a couple of Grade Ones behind the top two in the Supreme market which, for me at least, sets the standard in this red-hot division.

Stablemate Night And Day is available at 8/1 after her facile maiden success at Clonmel in January. She looks to have so much potential and is hard to weigh up at the moment, which makes her dangerous for likely connections.

Latest Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Ante-Post Odds

At the same price is Gordon Elliott’s Liberty Dance. She was chucked into a Grade 3 on her hurdling debut and ran okay, but has since bolted up in a maiden hurdle and a Listed fixture – the form of which is working out fairly well.

Another couple for Elliott are Deeply Superficial (10/1), who looks to have a huge future on the back of a good run against the boys in the G2 Navan Novice Hurdle before Christmas, and Halka Du Tabert (12/1), who bolted up by 11L in a mares’ maiden hurdle on the same card.

The former cannot be advised right now, as she’s been absent since and a lack of entries is a big concern, but the latter is one that interests me greatly.

Her comfortable victory at Navan, beating the useful Eabha Grace for Willie Mullins by a fair distance, was not only impressive on the eye but also the clock – and she will be right up there among the favourites if she’s to win the G3 Solerina Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Fairyhouse in late January.

Of those at bigger prices, You Wear It Well at 14/1 must have at least an each-way chance on the back of her second to the wildly impressive Hermes Allen in the G1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve.

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