The County Hurdle is a Grade 3 handicap on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival in March. It is one of the most competitive two-mile hurdles of the National Hunt season.
Notable recent winners include Rooster Booster (2002), Wicklow Brave (2015) and Arctic Fire (2017).
The race has proved extremely difficult for punters with Saint Roi (2020) being the first winning favourite since 2007. There have been plenty of long-priced winners including Silver Jaro (2008) at 50-1, Mohaayed (2018) and Belfast Banter (2021) at 33-1.
Find out more about the County Hurdle:
- 1 County Hurdle Race Overview
- 2 Famous County Hurdle Winners & History
- 3 County Hurdle 2023 Odds
- 4 County Hurdle Previous Winners
- 5 Key County Hurdle Trials
- 6 County Hurdle Betting Trends
- 7 County Hurdle – Top Trainers and Jockeys
- 8 Betting on the County Hurdle
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- 9 Popular Questions
- 10 Summary of The County Hurdle
- 11 Other Cheltenham Related Articles
County Hurdle Race Overview
The County Handicap Hurdle is a hurdle race held at Cheltenham Racecourse as part of the Cheltenham Festival. It is open to horses aged five and up.
This Grade 3 National Hunt hurdle is run over a distance of around 2 miles and 1 furlong on the New Course at Cheltenham, and there are eight hurdles to jump during the race.
It is a handicap event that will be held on the fourth day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Famous County Hurdle Winners & History
The County Hurdle was first run in 1920 with victory going to Trespasser. The race title was changed to the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle between 1995 and 2016, in honour of the legendary Irish trainer. The race held its traditional spot at the very end of the Cheltenham Festival until 2009.
Popular winners in the 1980’s include the David Elsworth trained pair, Robin Wonder (1983) and Floyd (1985). The latter was a prolific winning handicapper who progressed to Grade 1 level, winning the Long Walk Hurdle in 1990. His other career wins included the Imperial Cup at Sandown in 1985 and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in 1987 and 1988.
Toby Balding’s Neblin won in 1987 having already won the valuable Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury.
1989 winner Willsford went on to win the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter in 1990 and then became the oldest winner in the history of the Scottish Grand National in 1995.
Martin Pipe and Tony McCoy teamed up to win with the heavily-backed Blowing Wind in 1998.
Another gamble was landed two years’ later when Tony Dobbin won on Master Tern, owned by JP McManus and trained by Jonjo O’Neill.
2002 winner Rooster Booster was a popular grey trained by Philip Hobbs. He would go on to win the 2003 Champion Hurdle by 11 lengths under Richard Johnson.
In more recent years the Irish have enjoyed increased success in this event. Spirit Leader (2003) was a high-class winner under 11st 7lbs for Jessica Harrington. Katie Walsh struck on 20-1 chance Thousand Stars in 2010 for Willie Mullins, the first of a record five winners for the trainer. These include Wicklow Brave (2015) and Arctic Fire (2017), the latter defying 11st 12lbs. Arctic Fire had been second in this race in 2014 and improved out of all recognition, finishing a length and a half-second to stable companion Faugheen in the 2015 Champion Hurdle.
County Hurdle 2023 Odds
The odds for the 2023 County Hurdle are yet to be released.
County Hurdle Previous Winners
|2012||Alderwood||8||Tony McCoy||Thomas Mullins|
|2013||Ted Veale||6||Bryan Cooper||Tony Martin|
|2014||Lac Fontana||5||Daryl Jacob||Paul Nicholls|
|2015||Wicklow Brave||6||Paul Townend||Willie Mullins|
|2016||Superb Story||5||Harry Skelton||Dan Skelton|
|2017||Arctic Fire||8||Paul Townend||Willie Mullins|
|2018||Mohaayed||6||Bridget Andrews||Dan Skelton|
|2019||Ch’tibello||8||Harry Skelton||Dan Skelton|
|2020||Saint Roi||5||Barry Geraghty||Willie Mullins|
|2021||Belfast Banter||6||Kevin Sexton||Peter Fahey|
|2022||State Man||5||Paul Townend||Willie Mullins|
Key County Hurdle Trials
The most significant trials for the County Hurdle have been the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and the Ladbroke Hurdle (now the Liffey Handicap Hurdle) at Leopardstown. However, it is rarely the winner of these races that is the one to note for the County Hurdle.
Likewise, while 7 of the last twelve winners had previous form at Cheltenham only one of them was a course winner.
The future form of past winners is usually quite good with five of the last ten County Hurdle winners successfully stepping up in class next time. 2020 winner Saint Roi won the Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle at Tipperary while 2021 winner Belfast Banter won the Top Novices Hurdle at Aintree.
County Hurdle Betting Trends
- The County Hurdle has been a poor race for market leaders with only Saint Roi successful in the past twelve seasons. The only other winners in the top three in the betting during that period were Ted Veale (2013) and Superb Story (2016).
- Long priced winners include Mohaayed (2018) and Belfast Banter (2021) at 33-1 and Wicklow Brave (2015) at 25-1.
- The age of the winning horse has been spread fairly evenly from five to eight.
- The oldest winners in modern times were Barna Boy (1997) and Pedrobob (2007) as nine-year-olds, although Approval won it at the ripe old age of 13 back in 1959.
- Nine of the last twelve winners carried 11st 1lb or less. The exceptions were Wicklow Brave (2015) 11st 4lbs, Arctic Fire (2017) 11st 12lbs and Ch’tibello (2019) 11st 5lbs.
- Ten of those winners had at least two previous victories over hurdles and a rating of 134 or higher is usually required to win this race.
- Arctic Fire was by the far the highest-rated recent winner, scoring off a mark of 158. The closest to that figure was Ch’tibello (146). Belfast Banter (129) was the lowest-rated winner in recent years but proved it was no fluke by following up at Aintree.
County Hurdle – Top Trainers and Jockeys
Ruby Walsh remains the most successful rider in the history of the County Hurdle with four winners; Sporazene (2004), Desert Quest (2006), American Trilogy (2009) and Final Approach (2011).
Harry Skelton and Paul Townend have each ridden two apiece in the last seven years. Skelton rode Superb Story (2016) and Ch’tibello (2019) for his brother, Dan, who also won it with Mohaayed in 2018, ridden by Bridget Andrews.
Willie Mullins moved one ahead of Paul Nicholls with five winners when Saint Roi landed a gamble in 2020. Nicholls had provided the first three of Ruby Walsh’s winners and his most recent success came with Lac Fontana in 2014.
Betting on the County Hurdle
The County Hurdle is one of the most popular betting races at the Cheltenham Festival.
The ante-post market is strong but the race is always heavily over-subscribed and many fancied runners fail to make the final cut.
With bookmakers now offering “non-runner – no bet” on all Cheltenham Festival races from the end of January, this is a more attractive betting proposition.
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You should also look out for enhanced each-way terms on the County Hurdle with bookmakers sometimes paying out down to sixth or even seventh place.
What day is the County Hurdle?
The County Hurdle takes place on Friday the 18th of March.
Who won the County Hurdle 2021?
Belfast Banter was the winner of the 2021 County Hurdle.
Summary of The County Hurdle
The County Hurdle is one of the most hotly contested hurdle races of the season.
The winners are usual high-class and go on to prove themselves in Championship races.
Previous winners are a blend of top-class proven performers and those with uptapped potential.
It one of the most tricky races at the Festival to pick the winner of.
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