Cheltenham County Handicap Hurdle
Ruby Walsh boasts an excellent record in thee Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle and his victory aboard Final Approach last year came after his younger sister Katy had scooped this event in 2010 with Thousand Stars. Willie Mullins was the man responsible for training both horses, but it looks very tight at the head of the ante-post market with Citizenship and Moon Dice potential runners. Get a free £25 bet with William Hill.
Another one of those handicap races which are ever so difficult to call, and this one is certainly up there with the Pertemps Final Handicap and the Fred Winter from a betting angle. Twenty-eight ran in the contest last years and the first four placing were all filled by horses priced 20/1 bar. This goes to show that market confidence in this race should be taken with a pinch of salt and despite the huge Irish gambles that take place, those from across the water do have a poor record in this hurdle. But the ever present Paul Nicholls’ record isn’t quite so bad. He is the leading trainer for this country handicap readying winners in 2004, 2006 and more recently in 2009. Ruby Walsh took all three rides and they cannot be ruled out once again.
The race, which honours retired Irish racehorse trainer Vincent O’Brien, has seen the younger horses perform better than their older rivals in the past decade. Five and six-year-olds have won six of the last eight runnings of this event and one might conclude that older horses have lacked the stamina to see out the two miles and a bit trip. But Pedrobob was an exception to this trend when he won by a length in 2007 as a 9yo gelding. The fluctuation in past results means the form guides for this race are uncertain to pinpoint a potential winner. An improving consistent sort could prove a good place to start when scouring down the card for the County Handicap Hurdle. The large field means there will be plenty of avenues to explore, it’s just picking the right one!
Perhaps, a little sigh of relief for those favourite backers in this race though – three market leaders have won this since the turn of the millennium. The last of those was in fact Paul Nicholls’ Desert Quest in 2006 who went of 4/1 joint favourite. But will the 2011 Handicap Hurdle go to one of those at the head of the market or will another blockbuster price winner send the bookies into delirium?
County Handicap Hurdle verdict:
Paintball’s odds have tumbled following his Imperial Cup success last Saturday and a repeat success would put Charlie Longsdon’s representative in the frame. At the head of the market, Citizenship just about deserves his place at the summit on the back of his Leopardstown success but OLOFI likes it here at Prestbury Park. Tom George’s runner stayed on well when last seen in the Greatwood behind eventual winner Brampour to think he can win a big handicap race like this.
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