A new monthly awards series sponsored by sports betting community OLBG and aimed at increasing the number of National Hunt fillies and mares in training is being launched at Cheltenham Racecourse today, Saturday 20 October.
The OLBG Mare of the Month Award, run in association with the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (TBA) from this month through to March, 2013, will reward the trainer of the mare deemed to have delivered the most outstanding performance of the month as judged by an expert panel.
The monthly prize is an award of £1,000 to be shared amongst the staff in the winning stable along with a memento for the trainer.
A further award will be presented at the end of the season to the trainer who has won the highest number of individual races with mares. That award is a free 12-month lease on a two-berth Equi-Trek horsebox.
OLBG sponsors the Grade Two OLBG Mares' Hurdle at The Festival in March and has increased its commitment to the mares' Jump racing programme with sponsorship of two Grade Two and three Listed hurdles for the forthcoming season, starting at Wetherby with the Listed OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle on Saturday 3 November.
"We are delighted to be sponsoring the Mare of the Month Awards and increasing our commitment to mares' races," said OLBG spokeswoman Stefanie Reeve. "We hope that this support of National Hunt racing at grass-roots level can help to change the attitude of owners and trainers to putting mares into training and, in turn, help to boost the value of National Hunt fillies at the sales."
In September, the British Horseracing Authority announced an increase in the number of races devoted solely to fillies and mares. From October to December, there will be 84 mares' races, compared to 67 for the corresponding period in 2011, plus an additional seven Listed class opportunities for mares – all novice hurdles – to be run throughout the season, taking the total of mares' black-type races to 22.
TBA chief executive Louise Kemble said: "The TBA National Hunt Committee has been focusing on both stimulating the market and creating increased opportunities for jump mares.
"Thanks to support from the BHA and OLBG, we have been able to increase the number of mares-only races and importantly boost black-type opportunities.
"The new OLBG Mare of the Month Award presents a valuable opportunity to recognise those trainers who do so well with mares, and give a meaningful reward to their staff."
OLBG Mares' Hurdle Pattern and Listed Series races
2m 110y Listed hurdle in November at Wetherby
OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle, Saturday 3 November 2012
3m 110y Listed hurdle in November at Kempton Park
OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle, Monday 26 November 2012
2m 110y Grade Two hurdle in January at Doncaster
OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle, Saturday 26 January 2013
2½m Grade Two hurdle in March at Cheltenham
OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Registered as the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle), Tuesday 12 March 2013
2m 5f 110y Listed handicap hurdle in April at Cheltenham
OLBG.com Mares' Handicap Hurdle, Thursday 18 April 2013