County Handicap Hurdle Tips – Day 4 – Cheltenham 2015

County Handicap Hurdle

Outright Betting

For those who like their handicaps, then Friday’s County Hurdle (2.05) is one of the most thrilling of the season, both in terms of finding the winner and watching the race itself. And, if following specific trainers is your thing, then both Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins provided solid starting points in solving this puzzle.

Nicholls Or Mullins?
Nicholls won this race in 2006, 2009 and 2014, and has both Aux Ptits Soins and Calipto entered at 14/1 each, though both ran recently and their participation is unclear. The former ran in Wednesday’s Coral Cup, while the latter was pulled up Sandown.

With Nicholls not looking to hold a particularly strong hand this year, it could be Willie Mullins, the winning trainer in 2010 and 2011, who takes advantage via his Sepre Medici.

This 5yo has had only three outings over hurdles, winning on debut before a being tailed off in a Grade 1 last month. On pure form shown so far, he has a bit to prove, but there has been money for him and he is obviously better than what he showed last time.

Mullins also has the likes of Arbre De Vie (16/1), who has better recent form than Sepre Medici, having won his last two races including a decent novice at Warwick last month to the tune of 11l (2m5f, soft). He has plenty of potential and a bright future, with the only slight unknown being the ground (all run on soft/heavy).

Elliott In The Game
Right at the short end of the market is Gordon Elliott’s, The Game Changer (10/1), who won a valuable handicap at Killarney in the summer (2m1f, good), and looks to have been laid out for this having not been seen since beaten 7l in a Grade 2 in October. This would be some training feat to win this following a 159-day absence, especially as past winners had raced during the last 75 days…

Trends Summary

Of the last 10 County Hurdle winners…

10 carried 11st1lb or lower
10 were officially rated 139 or lower
10 all ran in a handicap hurdle during their career
10 raced during the previous 11-75 days
9 ran in a handicap last time
9 came from the top half in the betting, though no clear favourite won
9 were French or Irish-bred
8 were 5-6yo’s
P Nicholls won it three times, W Mullins twice

Will Jack Be Quick?
Tony Martin’s 6yo, Quick Jack (8/1), also comes here following an absence, having finished third when last seen in the Cesarewitch last October (2m2f, good). His last run over hurdles came in January 2014 when third in the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown (2m, soft), prior to winning a big Flat handicap at Galway (2m, good).

Having also won a novice handicap over C&D in November 2013, Quick Jack has all the attributes and will handle conditions, and Martin has no doubt kept him to one side for this.

Martin could also have Savello (12/1), who won last year’s Grand Annual Chase here (2m, good), though he runs in Wednesday’s Champion Chase and his participation remains unclear.

The Right Age?
Also amongst the leading fancies is Philip Hobbs’ 9yo, Cheltenian (14/1), who won the 2011 Champion Bumper, but was pulled up in this race 12 months ago. Back to form when third in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month, he needs consideration, even if his age goes against the trends.

Age isn’t a concern with Jessica Harrington’s 5yo, Modem (16/1), who showed he could win a race like this when runner-up in the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown (2m, soft). He then filled the same spot in a Grade 2 last month (2m, soft), beaten just 1l, and obviously has a touch of class. Better ground could even see improvement and he holds solid claims.

Tim Easterby’s 5yo, Hawk High, also deserves a look having won the Fred Winter over C&D here 12 months ago, and showed he retains his form with a second last month.

Recommended Bets
It goes against the trends in siding with a runner returning from a long layoff, but Tony Martin can ready them after a break, as he did with Quick Jack, who won a big Flat handicap last July following a six-month break.