County Handicap Hurdle Betting Tips
As we reach the last day of the festival, we look at the penultimate handicap of the week, the County Hurdle.
£100,000 is the prize fund for the race over two miles and a furlong and this one is not easy. The maximum field of 26 lines up here and we’re going 4/1 and 5/1 the field.
We noted that Willie Mullins has won four of the last 8 and Dan Skelton has had two winners in that time also. Between them, they have three of the top five in the market with the sixth horse much bigger at the time of writing. So, does that help us?
Well, as it turns out, probably not. In terms of weights, the last ten winners have carried a low of 10st, a high of 11st12lbs, the average carried is 11st and the median figure is 10-12.
In terms of prices; 11/4 is the low, 33/1 (twice) is the high, there has been an 11/2 winner and yet four over 20/1. They can win this at any price and from anywhere in the handicap!
Instead of narrowing the field down this time, we’ve simply had to start with a blank canvass and rate every horse individually, coming up with this six-runner shortlist:
This has been the horse for money. Emmet Mullins trains for JP McManus and this seven-year-old has been improving steadily throughout this season.
He was a beaten favourite last time out however and he is going up in the handicap. What punters have to decide now is; has he been doing well because of the good ground he’s raced on, or despite it?
Nicky Henderson’s First Street is a very obvious choice and yet is being quoted at around 20/1 at the time of writing. Only a six-year-old, not only is he not past it but his best form should still be yet to come.
Bear in mind then that he was second in this race last year and has been and done it and you can see why we think his odds are false.
He is a lot higher in the handicap now however and he was beaten at Wincanton when favourite for the Kingwell Hurdle last time.
We’re aware of Willie Mullins’ record in this race and he has another huge contender here in Hunters Yarn.
A year passed between his first and second hurdle races and it was a fairly inauspicious beginning. He improved markedly to win a 25-runner maiden at Naas by 13 lengths in January though, then stepped up again to score at Navan in a Listed race.
He’s been handed a mark of 147 for that victory but, at least given his upward trajectory, that may serve to fairly significantly underestimate him.
The partnership of Dan and Harry Skelton have been making hay in big handicaps and they have another livewire ready to spark here in Pembroke.
Another six-year-old, Pembroke has only been given four races over hurdles and he is going through the gears nicely, bound in fact to push the revs into the red for the first time here.
He gets into this race off a mark of 136, but we’d argue he beat that when ever so easily winning his third hurdle race in December at Ludlow by 16 lengths. He went off 5/4 for a Grade 2 last time, but his not winning that could be down to the 2½-mile trip.
Given natural improvement over two miles, he should be capable of running well into the mid-140’s now if not higher and he is therefore very well handicapped.
Noel Meade’s Pinkerton is a live outsider for this race after running placed in all six of his hurdle starts. He hasn’t won any of the last four, but does keep improving and might be handicapped OK.
Sharjah is a ten-year-old now but he’s a Grade 1 winner we cannot write off.
His three performances this season have led to triple defeat and the feeling that he is now regressing, but this is a different level for him.
A hugely difficult race for punters, but having painstakingly gone through form, speed figures and likely rates of improvement when handicapping this race, two horses stand out because of their potential more than the others.
They are Hunters Yarn for Willie Mullins and PEMBROKE for Dan Skelton’s two trainers who have done particularly well in this race in the recent past. Pembroke just gets the nod this time