The fourth and final day of another brilliant Cheltenham Festival hands us two more dog-eat-dog handicaps, including the £100,000 County Hurdle.
A full field of 26 are set to go to post, taking on eight hurdles around the New Course over two miles and one furlong.
Just about every single horse in this line-up is likely well handicapped, but we have scoured every resource possible to whittle the field down to the below six runners:
There is no doubt whatsoever that Nicky Henderson’s runner has the ability to win this race, but it’s not all plain sailing from a betting point of view.
Broomfield Burg won a novices’ hurdle on Boxing Day at Kempton with consummate ease and has since been sent off favourite for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
The handicapper didn’t move the horse for his novice win though, remaining largely unimpressed with what he beat, while in the Betfair Hurdle he could do no better than seventh place.
Let’s not forget that Broomfield Burg was also beaten in his only other run in a handicap, but the talent is there for sure and if he puts it all together today he has a major shout.
I Like To Move It
Just a five-year-old, I Like To Move It has had five goes over hurdles and most likely has more to offer us yet.
With that though, he has also proved he can handle this sort of affair given that his best and most recent run was his excellent second in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month.
There is plenty in his favour then and he is obviously very fit, but he’s up another 4lbs and so has to improve more than that to stand a chance.
There has been plenty of money for Willie Mullins’ five-year-old, once again all based on potential. So far State Man has taken in just three races, winning easily on his last start but arguably not beating very much.
He fell on his debut over Christmas and was beaten before that in France so is clearly fallible, making it a brave decision to take a short price about him despite his obvious talent.
Bringing slightly more experience to the event is Suprise Package, winner of two of his 13 hurdle races to date.
This is an important horse as he comes into the race as last week’s Imperial Cup winner, so the main question is whether he is way ahead of a 5lb penalty or whether taking in two such competitive races in a week is just too much.
Gordon Elliott will have hoped and wished for much more at this meeting so far, but he has a chance here with Top Bandit.
The six-year-old is 3/4 over hurdles and won easily last time at Punchestown, though once again it’s impossible to know what his real level is.
The Greatwood Hurdle form from November has been striking.
Adagio went on to the Champion Hurdle, Camprond was fourth on unsuitable ground on Wednesday in the Coral Cup, Tritonic came out and won at Grade 3 level, Glory And Fortune won the Betfair Hurdle, Marie’s Rock won the Grade 1 mares’ hurdle here on Tuesday and Botox Has won the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle last month.
That is spectacular, and West Cork beat them all. He was shoved up 7lbs for winning the Greatwood, which is fair, and though he wasn’t as good last time out we absolutely know he likes Cheltenham and we cannot ignore his form.
Still managing fifth in the Betfair Hurdle, it was discovered that West Cork suffered an overreach that day on his right-fore and we can expect much better now.
Willie Mullins missed out on an apparent handicap blot the other day with Gaelic Warrior, though he jumped right all day and perhaps should have won. He has a fairly similar type here in State Man, at least as much in the fact that we believe he is very well handicapped but don’t know for sure.
JP McManus and Nicky Henderson will have high hopes for Bloomfield Burg and as long as he settles better, we may see why he was favourite for a similar race last time out.
The form of the Greatwood Hurdle however cannot be ignored. WEST CORK has gone up 7lbs for the win, but that it no way truly reflects the effort put in and he should be even better now.