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County H'cap Hurdle Tips - 2:10pm Cheltenham

2020 County Handicap Hurdle Preview

One of the most competitive handicap of the week is the County Hurdle, a race over the minimum trip and in the recent past has been dominated by three trainers in particular. Dan Skelton has won it three times in the last four years while both Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins have all won the County Hurdle four times apiece since 2004.

For punters it has been a tricky puzzle with only one fancied horse winning since 2007, all of the others have started at double figure prices. Another useful stat is the fact that since 2004 only one horse has carried more than 11st 4lbs.

Willie Mullins has a horse in Ciel De Neige that’s a typical County Hurdle type, owned by JP McManus he was aimed at the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time out and very nearly pulled off a gamble when going down by ¾ of a length to Pic D’Orhy. I’m sure if jockey Aidan Coleman had his time over again he would have delayed his challenge just a bit longer as he hit the front too soon.

The 5yo was a good third in the Fred Winter hurdle last season so acts on the track and is only 7lbs higher this time round. He looks a solid option in an open race.

Stable mate Aramon is a different kettle of fish, he is not far off Champion Hurdle class so will be carrying a big weight here. Last time out he was 5th to Honeysuckle in a Grade 1 contest and last March was a decent 6th in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He’s just below top class and has never ran in a handicap before so could find this a whole lot easier.

Another Mullins runner with a squeak is Saint Roi, a very lightly raced type who was a disappointing beaten favourite on his Irish debut in December. He quickly made amends by bolring up at Tramore next time out and remains a horse with untapped potential.

Gordon Elliott has not had much luck in this race and his main hope this year is Thatsy who won his maiden hurdle at Navan back in November. Since then he was a good 4th of 25 at Leopardstown at the Christmas meeting and then last time out was 9th in a very competitive handicap at the same venue in February. He certainly has the ability, i'm just not sure he's that well handicapped.

Dan Skelton won this with Mohaayed a couple of years ago off a mark of 139, he’s paid for that since and has been struggling to get involved off a rating in the 150’s. He has finally been given some respite by the handicapper and is now on his lowest mark since that famous victory for him and partner Bridget Andrews and shouldn’t be counted out.

Paul Nicholls hasn’t got a particularly strong hand this year but saddles Christopher Wood who will be ridden by Harry Cobden. He was 9th behind Champion Hurdle winner Epatante at Newbury earlier in the season and last time out bolted up in a Musselburgh handicap. He was raised 10lbs for that and is a classy sort on his day.

Nicholls also runs Scaramanga whgo won at Wincanton in December in good style but has been a bit disappointing since. he has claimer Bryan Carver on his back taking 5lbs off.

Nicky Henderson has a decent sort in Adjali who runs in the two-tone green colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. I suppose some will say he’s been a bit of a disappointment since coming over from France, he won on his debut in a small race but has since been a beaten favourite in three of his last five starts. As a result he could be well handicapped here as he is very well regarded at home and one day he will show us what he is made of I’m sure.

Of the others I like Sir Valentine from the Twiston-Davies yard, he opened his account at Newbury in a novice hurdle and has since ran well in defeat in a couple of Grade 3 handicaps at Ascot and last timeout in the Betfair Hurdle which a good trial for this contest. He travelled well that day and finished a close 4th behind Pic D’Orhy and Ciel De Neige. That is very slid form and must be on the shortlist.

The yard also run Stolen Silver and is the choice of stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies. He won at Haydock in January and then was a tad disappointing when 8th in the Betfair Hurdle. He was behind Sir Valentine and Ciel De Neige so will need find some improvement here.

Punters Lounge Tip: Ciel De Neige EW 9/1 at William Hill - Click Here To Bet
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