County H'cap Hurdle Tips - 1:55pm Cheltenham

The County Hurdle is a fiercely competitive handicap run over an extended two miles on the new course and there are eight flights of hurdles to be jumped. This handicap can sometimes produce nightmare scenarios for jockeys and horses as they can find themselves blocked in at certain stages and have to jostle for position.

Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton have been the trainers to focus on in recent years having won the last six renewals between them (three apiece). It often pays to ignore exposed runners with seven of the last ten winners having nine or fewer runs over hurdles. A trend that has emerged in recent renewals is that of ex-flat horses seem to be coming to the fore and as French horses seem to be developed at an enhanced rate, they seem to be well suited by this type of challenge. Seven of the last eight winners had been placed in their most recent starts with only two winners in the last ten not having raced within at least forty-eight days.

The wheels came off Third Time Lucki in no uncertain terms when beaten by Bareback Jack in a novice hurdle at Musselburgh last time. He has been to Cheltenham twice before and failed to win so he would really need to live up to his name in order to take this here. He gives the impression that he has been to the well one too many times this year and he has now been thoroughly found out. I couldn’t have him on my mind.

Cayd Boy has only had a handful of starts nut has never finished outside of the first two places. He is untried on ground as good as this is likely to be though and there has to be question mark over whether he will cope with it. He has put in a couple of good efforts most notably when going in on his seasonal reappearance at Down Royal. This looks a high enough mark though and others may find themselves better treated.

Drop The Anchor has been running in some ultra-competitive races of late including when winning the Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown last month. He is used to big fields such as this and is still improving. If he can avoid trouble in running he looks to as though he could play a role here for leading owner JP McManus, particularly if the ground was to turn soft or worse.

Ganapathi was considered good enough to contest a Grade One race at Leopardstown last month. He ran as well as could be expected when finishing fifth behind stablemate Gaillard Du Mesnil. His sights have been firmly lowered and this will be much more to his liking if fully over those exertions. Still only lightly raced, but the pace of this race will be a culture shock to him.

Fifty Ball was a winner of two staying races on the flat in his native France and seems to have taken to life well under Gary Moore. Following a near three month break he ran in the biggest race of his career when he finished runner up to Soaring Glory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury a few weeks ago. He runs in the same colours as Goshen and no surprise if compensation should await the connections following their rotten luck in the Triumph last year. His chances are hard to ignore.

You Raised Me Up comes into this looking for a hat-trick of wins having scored at Naas and Listowel on his two most recent starts. He has taken an age to come to hand, but now that he has he looks to have a bright future. He has only finished outside of the placings once in has last five runs and has plenty of experience in big fields. Has form on a decent surface and another big run on the cards.

Edwardstone ran well in the Betfair Hurdle and comes here with a live chance. His best form has always come on drying ground and he was sixth in the Supreme last season. Nearly all of his best runs have come on flat tracks including Aintree and Wincanton but again he knows how to stay out of trouble in big fields and that will be an asset here.

Champagne Gold is likely to improve on what he showed at Leopardstown following a two-month break and only got collared in the closing stages by the re-opposing Drop The Anchor. With fitness now on his side, he may well be able to reverse that form. His best efforts have come with plenty of give in the ground though and that would be a concern here.

Fifty Ball has a lovely profile and hopefully he gets into this race. He is an exciting and progressive sort and he can utilise his natural speed to carry him into contention. There was a lot to like about his run in the Betfair Hurdle and he can hopefully right the wrongs of Goshen on this day last season. It would be emotional for the Moore family and owner Steven Packham.

Punters Lounge Tip: Fifty Ball NRNB @ 14/1 E/W at bet365 - Click Here To Bet

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