County Hurdle Tips: Two picks for Friday’s handicap

 | March 14 | 

6 mins read

County Hurdle Tips

The first handicap contest on the final afternoon at Cheltenham is the County Hurdle, a firecracker over two-miles-and-a-furlong and a contest Festival centurion Willie Mullins has won a record six times - including in 2022 with the new Champion Hurdler, State Man.

This is an Extra Place Race, so Betfred are paying 5 places instead of 4 at 1/5 the odds for all each-way bets.

County Hurdle Tips

  • King Of Kingsfield @ 9/2
  • Hansard @ 20/1

Runners

Pied Piper (Gordon Elliott/Danny Gilligan) 10/1

Talented as a juvenile and a winner in 5-11 starts over hurdles, including form figures here of 1312 - latterly when denied a head off a 2lb lower mark in this event 12 months ago. Arrives fresh and that could be helpful.

Zenta (Willie Mullins/Mark Walsh) 11/1

Third behind stablemate Lossiemouth in the Triumph Hurdle last season and grabbed his own Grade 1 at Aintree afterwards. Is 7lb higher than when third in big-field Leopardstown contest last month but has claims.

Magical Zoe (Henry de Bromhead/Adrian Heskin) 11/1

Second in Mares' Novices' Hurdle here last season, perhaps having been left too much to do. Listed Gowran Park winner on comeback and two excellent efforts in defeat since, faring best of these in a DRF handicap at Leopardstown. Up in the ratings for that.

Encanto Bruno (Gavin Cromwell/Keith Donoghue) 25/1

Winner of a novice event over 2m4f in October on good ground but a couple of tame efforts in Ireland on easier going leave him with more on his plate to defy this mark.

Hansard (Gary Moore/Niall Houlihan) 20/1

Gained third hurdles win in a Newbury Listed contest in December and three-lengths fifth behind Champion Hurdle third Luccia in a valuable Ascot handicap soon after. A good record when fresh and the mark is fair.

King Of Kingsfield (Gordon Elliott/Jack Kennedy) 9/2

Easy winner of a Leopardstown maiden hurdle over 2m at Christmas and his placed efforts either side of that were in Grade 1s, including behind Ballyburn. Also second to Supreme winner Slade Steel in November. Mark of 140 may underestimate him.

Westport Cove (Willie Mullins/Mikey O'Sullivan) 16/1

Thurles maiden winner in November and has kept some decent company since in three defeats. Tailed off in Champion Bumper here last season.

Bialystok (Willie Mullins/Danny Mullins) 10/1

Ran well in fourth, beaten three-lengths, in a Fairyhouse Grade 1 in December and was moving with purpose in Dublin Racing Festival last month when brought down two out. Could be more to come.

Absurde (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend) 7/1

Won the Ebor at York last summer and ran well in the Melbourne Cup. Has come up well shy in two Grade 1 novices hurdles since but gets the nod from Paul Townend here.

Risk Belle (Willie Mullins/Jody McGarvey) 16/1

Mare won a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse (2m, soft) on comeback this season and ran well in same grade over further at Leopardstown next time. Beaten 18-lengths in Listed handicap at last month's DRF.

Aucunrisque (Chris Gordon/Rex Dingle) 33/1

Betfair Hurdle winner at Newbury last season but things haven't gone to plan since either over hurdles or fences. Handicapper offers some respite.

Gin Coco (Harry Fry/Johnny Burke) 28/1

Was fancied for this race last beat but finished down the field. A winner at Ascot in November, but a tame showing since at Doncaster in January tempers enthusiasm.

Petit Tonnerre (Jonjo O'Neill/Jonjo O'Neill Jr) 22/1

Finished seventh in this race last year off a mark 4lb higher. Has been solid if not spectacular in four chase starts this term and sports a first-time visor on hurdles return.

Faivoir (Dan Skelton/Triston Durrell) 14/1

Game in front when holding off Pied Piper to win this race a year ago. Beaten a nose in the Imperial Cup on Saturday, his best effort since, and Tristan Durrell takes over claiming 3lb now.

L'eau Du Sud (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton) 9/2

Dual hurdles winner in France and best effort so far for this yard when finding only Iberico Lord too strong in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Pulled up in the Greatwood here the time before, however, and rated 6lb higher now. Trainer has a fine record in this.

So Scottish (Emmet Mullins/Donagh Meyler) 14/1

Versatile sort, produced his best hurdles effort when fourth at the Dublin Racing Festival last time over 2m (soft) in a strong contest, though he was behind a couple of these rivals.

Parramount (Charlie Longsdon/Gavin Sheehan) 40/1

In good form last spring, albeit in much lower grades than this, winning three times. Had a spin on the all-weather last month to sharpen him up but not an obvious candidate.

Samui (Gordon Elliott/Sam Ewing) 66/1

Pleasing attitude to win a Listed Listowel handicap hurdle (2m, good to yielding) in September before finding it all too much soon after in Grade 3 at Tipperary. High enough in ratings but had a spin on the Flat last month to get him ready.

Mr Freedom (Sabrina West/Marc Goldstein) 50/1

Exposed handicapper, justified favouritism in a Class 3 Plumpton contest over 2m (soft) last month but is 5lb higher and a world away from there now.

By Your Side (Gordon Elliott/Jake Coen) 66/1

Has run well enough in three starts this season but the record over hurdle shows a single win from 17 starts and it would be a shock if that doubles now.

Afadil (Paul Nicholls/Freddie Gingell) 25/1

Ran well here last March in the Boodles as a 4YO and produced his best effort to date when scoring at Musselburgh (1m7½f, good to soft) in last month's Scottish County Hurdle. Raised 6lb for that and in a classier affair now.

Media Naranja (Gordon Elliott/Jordan Gainford) 50/1

Yeats mare completes Gordon Elliott's five-strong challenge. She ran a solid fourth at the DRF last month but will require plenty more from an 8lb higher mark in this company to be in the mix.

Rare Middleton (Paul Nicholls/Angus Cheleda) 66/1

Winner of a minor contest at Doncaster in December for Britain's champion trainer and off since. This mark demands a massive chunk of improvement amongst this field.

Verdict

King Of Kingsfield @ 9/2 & Hansard @ 20/1

Dan Skelton and Willie Mullins account for eight of the last nine County Hurdle winners, so their respective representatives (they have eight between them) merit close inspection but KING OF KINGSFIELD gets the nod.

As an improving novice he has the right profile and he's twice been placed in Grade 1 events this season, while also winning a Christmas maiden at Leopardstown. Last time out he finished as close to Ballyburn as anything did here on Wednesday, while he was second to the Supreme winner Slade Steel at Naas in November.

King of Kingsfield to win 14.10 Cheltenham at 9-2

Gary Moore's HANSARD won the Gerry Feilden at Newbury in December then ran well at Ascot before Christmas behind smart mare Luccia. He's still on a workable mark and is proven to go well fresh.

Hansard to win 14.10 Cheltenham at 20-1

cheltenham extra place instead of 4

Find more Cheltenham Tips here at Betfred Insights

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