The County Hurdle is arguably the hottest handicap of the week at the Festival.
Run over the same course and distance as the Triumph Hurdle, luck in running is needed - especially if you backed a hold-up horse.
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 Cheltenham Festival schedule in 2009.
From 1995 until 2016 it was called the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle in honour of the great Irish trainer who sent out 23 Festival winners.
Subsequently it was sponsored by Randox Health and now by McCoy Contractors.
COUNTY HURDLE TRENDS
Considering just how hard it is to win the race, it is particularly noteworthy that Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton have won 7 of the last 8 renewals.
Indeed, Mullins has won the County Hurdle a record six 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.
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 five 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 2021 & 2022).
LAST 5 WINNERS’ DATA
State Man 2022
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:
Superb Story 2016
Wicklow Brave was a runaway winner for Willie Mullins back in 2015:
Lac Fontana 2014
Ted Veale 2013
Final Approach 2011
Thousand Stars 2010
Rooster Booster 2002
Sir Talbot 1999
Barna Boy 1997