The Challenger Series is back for a second season and it’s bigger and better than the first time around with a Mares’ Chase Handicap Series added. This will create an expanded six race Finals Day at Haydock Park on Easter Saturday, worth more than £300,000 across the six series.
The rules are simple, finish in the top eight of any qualifier (all starters in the Mares Chase Series) and you earn the chance to play for the big money at the end of the Series.
There are 41 races across the series up to the end of the year and we’ve identified some key contests that could unearth some Easter Saturday winners.
Kempton, Monday 7th November – 2m Hurdle Series
The Two Mile Hurdle Series was one of the most competitive divisions last season with the first four home in the Final all winning their qualifiers. The champion, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Thunder Sheik, secured his place in the Final with victory in this Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at Kempton last November.
He carried a stone more than the runner up that day and went on to run credibly twice afterwards on unsuitably soft ground. On the big day itself he put in an impressive performance to win by three and a half lengths and take the prize. This year’s Kempton race could well be worth keeping an eye on.
Cheltenham, Sunday 13th November – Stayers Hurdle Series
This Open Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle produced a Cheltenham Festival winner last season as Unowhatimeanharry scored here and went onto win the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle in March.
But we’re more interested in the fourth that day at Cheltenham, which was the Neil Mulholland trained Fingerontheswitch. Rated the second best horse in the Final at Haydock he was sent off the 13/2 third favourite and ran a stormer under a big weight to finish second. Keep an eye on the first few home at Cheltenham on the 13th November – they could be worth following.
Mulholland is clearly a fan of the Series and he trained the winner of the first race in this season’s Mares Chase Series.
Sandown, Saturday 3rd December – Mares Hurdle Series
On the face of it the performance of Lady Of Longstone at Sandown in December last year may have been disappointing as she trailed home in sixth. But that was of course enough to qualify and by the time the Final came around she had her favoured Good ground and put it all together to win by an impressive eight lengths.
The winner of that Sandown race last year, Flute Bowl, went on to run in the OLBG Mares Hurdle at the Festival and was a credible 11th out of 19 behind Vroum Vroum Mag.
It could be worth noting the qualifiers from this race once again.
Stayers Hurdle Series Final
- Petethepear – 20th February, Ascot, 3rd
- Fingerontheswitch – 15th November, Cheltenham, 4th
- Billy Dutton – 20th February – Ascot, 2nd
- Caledonia – 29th February – Ayr, 1st
2m Hurdle Series Final
- Thunder Sheik – 2nd November, Kempton, 1st
- Kings Bayonet – 6th January, Huntingdon, 1st
- Apterix – 3rd March, Ludlow, 1st
- Floresco – 21st January, Wincanton, 1st
Mares Hurdle Series Final
- Lady Of Longstone – 5th December, Sandown, 5th
- Midnight Jazz – 26th February, Exeter, 2nd
- Secret Door – 13th December, Southwell, 2nd
- Woodland Walk – 12th November, Taunton, 2nd