The County Hurdle is arguably the most competitive handicap hurdle of the year and takes place over two miles and a furlong on the New Course on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival. It was won last year by the runner up in the 2015 Champion Hurdle Arctic Fire under a masterful ride from Paul Townend and has attracted a whole host of potentially nicely handicapped horses at this stage. Despite its extremely competitive nature the number of possible winners can be helpfully narrowed down with some key stats and trends which we will look at below and you can view our County Hurdle tips here.
Max Dynamite is a short priced favourite but struggles in our trends and it is stablemate Deal D’Estruval who comes out best. He is a first season hurdler who is trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins and is very unexposed, he’s just about a double figure price too. Countister does well herself but looks unlikely to get in and the others are hit or miss.
Max Dynamite ❌✅❌❌❌
Deal D’Estruval ✅✅✅✅✅
Ivanovich Gorbatov ✅✅❌❌✅
Bleu Et Rouge ❌✅❌❌✅
Flying Tiger ✅❌✅❌✅
Willie Mullins produced an incredible training performance to get Arctic Fire back to his best to win this last year with L’Ami Serge a neck back in second and looks to have a live chance of winning this race for the fifth time since 2010 with the globetrotting Max Dynamite. He was last seen finishing sixth beaten under four lengths by the brilliant Highland Reel in the Hong Kong Vase and was an excellent third in the Melbourne Cup before that despite not having an ideal preparation. He is a seriously high class horse on the flat especially and if he can sort out his jumping in the hustle and bustle of a County Hurdle he’d have to have an enormous chance. Mullins may have another contender in the same famous Susannah Ricci colours in the shape of Deal D’Estruval who was last seen finishing second behind the handicap blot Off You Go in the Coral Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival despite it only being his second run ever over hurdles. That was an impressive performance considering his inexperience and he showed he handled big field handicaps with no problems. Willie was quite keen on his chances when doing a stable tour so he would be interesting if turning up here though he is also entered in the Martin Pipe and Coral Cup.
JP McManus is always well represented in this race and this year is no different as he looks to have a few live chances in the shape of Ivanovich Gorbatov, Bleu Et Rouge and Countister. The first named of those won the Triumph Hurdle from Apple’s Jade back in 2016 and was a big plunge horse for this race last year when he finished a good sixth beaten just three lengths despite possibly being sent for home too early. He is three pounds lower this year and looks to have another good chance of Festival glory. Bleu Et Rouge ran an extremely eyecatching race in the Betfair Hurdle where he travelled all over Supreme hope Kalashnikov before seemingly being outstayed on very testing ground. Barry Geraghty was very positive about the chances of Amy Murphy’s stable star in the opener so through that form line Willie Mullins looked to have another good chance though he is eight pounds higher. Nicky Henderson has a surprisingly poor record in this race and has only hit the frame once from sixteen runners in this in the last ten years but Countister would be interesting if sneaking in at the bottom of the weights as she has won her last two very easily but it looks doubtful she’ll line up.
Last year’s Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger has seen plenty of support in the last few days since finishing fourth beaten five lengths behind Champion Hurdle contender Elgin in the Kingwell at Wincanton. He was left on a mark of 140 despite having 152 rated Call Me Lord just half a length ahead of him and that looks pretty lenient especially since Cliffs Of Dover, who was pulled up in that race, has since come out and won on the flat. He clearly likes it at the Festival and will handle any ground so the forecast poor weather is not a real concern of his, he is interesting.
Dan Skelton won this in 2016 with the well punted Superb Story and has an outside chance with Mohaayed who finished just behind Ivanovich Gorbatov in this last year beaten under four lengths. He was well beaten in the Greatwood but wouldn’t have enjoyed the ground at all there and has since bounced back to finish an unlucky second behind Doncaster specialist Irish Roe at her favourite track. He then finished six lengths behind Buveur D’Air in the Christmas Hurdle which is no disgrace. He is five pounds higher than when seventh in this last year but has more experience now and has a good level of form this season so is interesting at a price.
Not long left until the Festival and you can view all our antepost previews and tips on our Cheltenham Festival tips section now!