What are the best bets for the County Hurdle?
14:10 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle Race, 2m1f
Last year’s 1-2-3-4: Wicklow Brave (25/1), Sort It Out (17/2), Quick Jack (8/1), Max Dynamite (14/1) – 24 ran.
An impossible-looking race but recent history might provide us with a clue. Seven of the last nine winners have come from Ireland, with five of them trained by a Mullins. Willie Mullins had his first festival handicap victory in this race with Thousand Stars in 2010 and he’s added two more since, including Wicklow Brave (25/1) 12 months ago.
You’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this and you’d be right as I’m going to talk first about the stable’s apparent first-string Great Field, who is currently favourite. A French import, he was a stylish winner on his British / stable debut at Leopardstown in February, despite failing to settle, and he’s now making his handicap debut with Barry Geraghty up. It would be no surprise if he turns out to be graded class in time and, with the guaranteed strong pace sure to suit him, he’s a worthy favourite.
But I’m a sucker for Cheltenham form and the Greatwood Hurdle run here earlier this season could well provide the winner in SUPERB STORY. Dan Skelton’s charge was beaten just half a length on that occasion by Old Guard, who has since progressed to the cusp of Champion Hurdle class, and he would have found the ground slower than ideal. A winner at Wetherby on ‘good’ previously, he looks sharply progressive and his trainer has likely waited for this in the hope of better ground – his prayers have been answered!
Of those at bigger prices, Hawk High catches the eye at bet365’s 33/1 (1/4 odds, 22.214.171.124.5). He finished well beaten in this 12 months ago on ‘soft’ but gets good ground for the first time since winning at Aintree in 2014, having landed the Fred Winter on similar going previously.