One of the classic big betting races of the season, the County Hurdle is the culmination of many a trainer’s cunning plan to keep their hurdlers well handicapped and ready to peak at the Festival.
These are the six we like:
Éclair De Beaufeu
Now under the care of Denise Foster, Éclair De Beaufeu has some solid form in big handicaps and was sent off at only 8/1 for this very race twelve months ago.
He’s in no worse form now than he was then and can once again be considered a major contender, his unseating in the race twelve months ago giving us no clues as to how he may take to the event.
His form and his handicap mark both remain fairly consistent, but stepping back and looking at his profile helps to reveal improvement, even if only slight improvement, so he may yet prove good enough at the weights.
Willie Mullins won’t be overshadowed for long, especially not on Gold Cup day you’d feel, and in Ganapathi he has a major competitor in this race.
Only three races into his hurdle career, Ganapathi is already a winner and ran well enough on his second run when runner-up at Punchestown in January to form the opinion that he may prove to be well handicapped.
Experience is perhaps an issue, but he clearly has the talent and is in the right hands so could yet make his presence felt when it matters.
Fancied by a few at a very big price, Olly Murphy’s horse is on a hat-trick which makes us wonder why his odds are so sizeable at all.
While it’s true that his two recent wins were in bumpers, they prove his wellbeing and have helped to look after his hurdling handicap mark.
Strong Glance was midfield when last seen at Cheltenham and over timber in the Greatwood Hurdle back in November, but he’s a better horse now and his previous form was very progressive. Great each-way shout.
Third Time Lucki
One for the Skelton’s here; a progressive six-year-old with five hurdle runs under his belt of which he has won three.
Before being beaten at odds-on at Musselburgh Third Time Lucki had won very nicely at Kempton and, perhaps more pertinently, was a good second in a Grade 2 novice race at Cheltenham behind For Pleasure who is rated 144 now and was a very good front-running third here on Tuesday in the Supreme.
This chap is rated 143 though which is a little high based on his For Pleasure’s form, so while he’s competitive he’s not an automatic selection.
Paul Nicholls hasn’t had much luck here this week, but in the overpriced Thyme White he may yet be able to notch a big win.
Running in the familiar Steward Family colours, Thyme White has progressed from a fairly low level over hurdles to win at Musselburgh and Chepstow so far, but it’s his run last time out that caught our eye.
Only ninth of 23 in the Betfair Hurdle, Thyme White was having his first run for three months and ran that way too having come into the race very smoothly before tiring late on.
That was a strong event, he’s down 1lb in the handicap and he’s bound to come on plenty for the outing so will shape up much better today.
You Raised Me Up
Well backed after two wins separated by five months, the fresh You Raised Me Up may yet prove to be well handicapped.
Furthermore, he has proven that he can handle a big field and a strong pace having run third in last year’s valuable Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown and so he must be considered a major player in this.
There’s a thought that he may have preferred Tuesday’s ground conditions to todays, which is the only negative in his profile.
This should be a cracking race and very lively betting event, something the Festival really needs given the lack of crowds and after witnessing some smaller fields and easy odds-on successes.
Apparent outsider Strong Glance must hold a major chance after his recent bumper runs, while Willie Mullins can never be ruled out and so Ganapathi enters calculations.
The one we like however is THYME WHITE. He ran well for a long way in the Betfair Hurdle, will see things out better today and has already proven that he can handle the pace in this sort of event.