COUNTY HURDLE

The County Hurdle is arguably the hottest handicap of the week at the Festival.

Run over the same course and distance as the Triumph, luck in running is needed - especially if you backed a hold-up horse.

Grade 3 | 5yo+ | Friday 14.10
2 miles 1 furlong | 8 hurdles | New Course
Weight: 10st - 11st 12lb (handicap)
Prize money (2022): £100,000 | 1st: £56,270

This ultra-competitive race used to be the last of the week, giving punters the hardest puzzle to solve as the 'getting out' stakes. 

However, it moved to its current position in the schedule in 2009.

It is currently sponsored by McCoy Contractors.

COUNTY HURDLE TRENDS

6 of the last 7 winners were trained by Willie Mullins or Dan Skelton
17 of the last 21 winners were either novices or second-season hurdlers
14 of the last 18 winners were aged either 5 or 6
13 of the last 18 winners were ex-Flat horses
10 of the last 15 winners were Irish trained
2 of the last 15 winners returned at single figure odds
1 of the last 15 favourites won

Considering just how hard it is to win the race, it is particularly noteworthy that Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton won 6 consecutive renewals between them up until last year. 

Indeed, Mullins has won the race a record five times, including the 1-2-4 in 2020.

Paul Nicholls has won it four times - with his last winner coming in 2014.

By contrast, Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott have poor recent records in the race, despite throwing plenty of runners at it.

That being said, Petit Mouchoir and Eclair De Beaufeu - 2nd and 4th last year - were both trained by Elliott until his suspension.

Speed is obviously a key attribute, particularly when the ground is decent and, as with most handicaps, unexposed types have tended to come to the fore.

However, two of the last four winners were eight-year-old's rated at 146 and 158.

Arctic Fire in 2017, was the first top weight to win since 1960, but the runners-up in 2019 and 2020 both carried just 1b off.

Additionally, the 2021 runner-up, Petit Mouchoir, was the top-rated horse (155), albeit his amateur jockey was claiming 7lb.

Randomly, no seven-year-old has won the County Hurdle since 2003 (there were 6 seven-year-old's in the race in both 2021 & 2022).

Only two winners this century have won off a rating in the 150s, which is bad news for top weight Call Me Lyreen (152) this year.

LAST 5 WINNERS’ DATA

YEAR
AGE
OFFICIAL RATING
WEIGHT
2022
5
141
11-1
2021
6
129
10-0
2020
5
137
10-13
2019
8
146
11-5
2018
6
139
10-8

RECENT WINNERS

YEAR
WINNER
JOCKEY / TRAINER
SP
2022
State Man
Paul Townend / W P Mullins
11/4f
2021
Belfast Banter
Kevin Sexton / Peter Fahey
33/1
2020
Saint Roi
Barry Geraghty / W P Mullins
11/2f
2019
Ch'tibello
Harry Skelton / Dan Skelton
12/1
2018
Mohaayed
Bridget Andrews / Dan Skelton
33/1
2017
Arctic Fire
Paul Townend / W P Mullins
20/1
2016
Superb Story
Harry Skelton / Dan Skelton
8/1
2015
Wicklow Brave
Paul Townend / W P Mullins
25/1
2014
Lac Fontana
Daryl Jacob / Paul Nicholls
11/1
2013
Ted Veale
Bryan Cooper / A J Martin
10/1
2012
Alderwood
Tony McCoy / Thomas Mullins
20/1
2011
Final Approach
Ruby Walsh / W P Mullins
10/1
2010
Thousand Stars
Katie Walsh / W P Mullins
20/1
2009
American Trilogy
Ruby Walsh / Paul Nicholls
20/1
2008
Silver Jaro
Noel Fehily / Tom Hogan
50/1
2007
Pedrobob
Philip Carberry / Tony Mullins
12/1
2006
Desert Quest
Ruby Walsh / Paul Nicholls
4/1jf
2005
Fontanesi
Timmy Murphy / Martin Pipe
16/1
2004
Sporazene
Ruby Walsh / Paul Nicholls
7/1jf
2003
Spirit Leader
Barry Geraghty / Jessica Harrington
10/1
2002
Rooster Booster
Richard Johnson / Philip Hobbs
8/1
2001

Festival Cancelled

2000
Master Tern
Tony Dobbin / Jonjo O'Neill
9/2f

Kevin Sexton rode his first Festival winner aboard Belfast Banter in 2021:

Saint Roi, making his handicap debut and on just his fourth career start, headed home a Mullins 1-2-4 in 2020.

The unexposed five-year-old was heavily backed and proved to be Barry Geraghty's final ever Cheltenham Festival winner:

Ch'tibello secured back-to-back County Hurdle's (and a third victory in four years) for trainer Dan Skelton in 2019.

His brother Harry was in the saddle - who followed up his girlfriend Bridget Andrews' win in the race 12 months earlier:

It was a first Festival win for the 3lb claimer Bridget Andrews in 2018, with 33/1 shot Mohaayed seeing off the 50/1 Remiluc:

Arctic Fire defied top weight on his first start for 418 days in 2017, while Paul Townend won the race for the second time in 3 years.

The 2015 Champion Hurdle runner-up was carrying almost a stone more than when just beaten in this race 3 seasons earlier: