Lady Buttons is one of the leading National Hunt mares in the country and heads to the Cheltenham Festival next week (10-13 March). Here are some interesting facts about the “tough” mare ahead of the big racing spectacle in Gloucestershire.
A decade-long partnership
The 10-year-old bay mare has been with her trainer, North Yorkshire-based Philip Kirby, since she was a one-month-old foal, after arriving in the yard at the foot of her dam, Lady Chapp. Philip knew Lady Buttons was special early on and she was always “above average” when working alongside the other three-year-olds at the stable.
A good pedigree
Lady Buttons was home-bred by her owners, Keith and Jayne Sivills, who still own her. She is a daughter of jumping sire Beneficial and Philip went on to purchase her dam, Lady Chapp, from the Sivills.
A leading jumps mare
Over the past decade, Lady Buttons has emerged as the Kirby yard’s flag-bearer, since making a winning racecourse debut in a Wetherby bumper in 2013. The Grade Two and Listed winner now has 15 victories under her belt, earning her a spot among the leading National Hunt mares in the country.
A talented jumper
Most of her wins have come over hurdles (eight) and her trainer explained that is where the “winning opportunities” have come from. However, this tough and determined mare is equally comfortable over steeplechase fences, according to Philip, who describes jumping as her “strong point”.
Lady Buttons currently holds three entries for the Cheltenham Festival in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Grand Annual Challenge Cup Chase. Philip will make a decision which race she’ll run in beforehand. The mare has yet to perform at the Gloucestershire track, having finished fourth in last year’s OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, so this year’s Festival will prove whether or not it is a “track thing” added Philip.
She is a particularly photogenic horse, with model good looks, and has been the subject on many occasions for Philip’s equestrian artist wife, Pippa. Lady Buttons would not look out of place in the show ring and each morning works naturally in a nice outline in the sand school before heading to the gallops for a canter.
Once her career on the racecourse has finished, her owners will have her home for broodmare duties (and what beautiful babies she will produce…), but it is undecided whether that will be at the end of this season or next.
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Lady Buttons is fondly referred to as the “Queen of the North” and following her success on the racecourse she has earned herself a flurry of fans. Her work rider, Jennie Durrans, calls her “Benjamin Button”, simply because this mare just keeps getting better and better with age.
Don’t miss our preview ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in the 5 March issue of Horse & Hound, and read the full report in the 19 March issue.
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