• Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle

    HEADLINES

    Dan Skelton has trained three of the last five winners

    Irish Trained have won seven of the last eleven, Willie Mullins with five

    16 of the last 18 were either novices or second season hurdlers

    Only two course winners have won since 1991. Both were second season novices

    Eight of the last 10 rated between 134 and 139

    12 of the last 15 achieved their best RPR of at least 129 on a left handed track

    One h'cap debutant winner since Thumbs Up in '93. Saint Roi in 2020

    13 of the last 15 achieved best RPR within their last three runs

    Only Arctic Fire this century had finished in the first 5 at a previous Festival

    No BF last time out has won since 2013.

    Only Arctic Fire of the last 11 won wearing any sort of headgear

    Last five winners not seen out since 1st January

    Summary

    Race Distance - 2 miles and abt a furlong. Winner will be aged 5 or 6 yrs, a novice or else placed in Boylesports/Betfair Hurdle/G1. Not finished in first five in previous Festival race. No more than second season over hurdles or else Skelton/Mullins trained. If full handicap, will carry under 11st 1lb unless finished 1st or 2nd in a Class 1 Handicap Hurdle. Not more than 1lb out of the handicap. Will have had at least three previous runs this season unless W Mullins. No more than 19 previous runs over hurdles. Will be rated between 134 and 139 unless Skelton/Mullins. No headgear unless Nicholls/Mullins. Either Irish/Nicholls/Skelton trained. Not a previous course winner unless won on Trials Day Not a handicap debutante (yes, unless W Mullins. May already have ran in a top hurdle race this season. Any price. Don't back a conditional who has yet to win at least Class 2 level. Has a best RPR of at least 129. Did I mention W Mullins? Not Saint Roi.

  • Honours Board

    Year |||Form||| Winner||| Age |||Weight||| OR |||SP||| Trainer||| Jockey |||Hdle Runs||| Last Race (No of Days)

    2020||| 51 |||Saint Roi||| 5 |||10-13||| 137||| 11/2F |||W Mullins(IRE) |||B Geraghty |||2||| 1st Tramore Maiden Hdle (72)

    2019 |||5692||| Ch'tibello||| 8||| 11-5||| 146 |||12/1 |||D Skelton||| H Skelton |||19 |||2nd Cl2 Aintree H'cap 2m 4f (97)

    2018 |||1023 |||Mohaayed |||6 |||10-8||| 139||| 33/1||| D Skelton||| B Andrews||| 9||| 2nd G1 Kemp Xmas Hdle (81)

    2017||| -||| Arctic Fire |||8||| 11-12||| 158||| 20/1||| W Mullins(IRE) |||P Townend |||17 |||2nd G1 Leop Irish Champion (418)

    2016 |||12||| Superb Story||| 5 |||10-12||| 138||| 8/1 |||D Skelton||| H Skelton||| 6||| 2nd G3 Chelt Greatwood (124)

    2015||| 580P||| Wicklow Brave||| 6 |||11-4||| 138||| 25/1 |||W Mullins||| P Townend||| 9 |||PU G3 Sandown Imperial Cup (6)

    2014||| 141||| Lac Fontana||| 5||| 10-11||| 139||| 11/1||| P Nicholls||| D Jacob |||6||| Ist Chelt Cl2 H'cap (48)

    2013||| 31923||| Ted Veale||| 6||| 10-6||| 134||| 10/1 |||A Martin(IRE)||| B Cooper||| 5 |||3rd Leop Ladbroke Hdle (48)

    2012||| 41610120||| Alderwood |||8||| 11-1||| 139||| 20/1||| T Mullins(IRE)||| AP McCoy||| 12 |||15th Leop 15k h'cap hdle(33)

    2011||| 51 |||Final Approach||| 6||| 10-5 |||139||| 10/1||| W Mullins(IRE)||| R Walsh |||4 |||1st Leop Ladbroke Hdle (68)

    Evidence

    AGE - 8 yr olds and older. 5 winners since ‘97 and only 7 since 1959. Decent run last year by 9 yr old Moon Over Germany, a 25/1 6th. Ch'tibello's win in 2019 followed a fine second by Remiluc in 2018, a 9yrs old at 50/1, three others unplaced. In 2017 Arctic Fire at 8 yrs proved what a class act he was (and a fine trainer he has) under a cool Paul Townend ride, five others unplaced. 2012 Alderwood won from 4 triers, '07 Pedrobob, '02 Rooster Booster). Remiluc had been 5th in a Betfair Hurdle. Had previously won the 2 mile h'ap hurdle that closes Trials Day.

     

    Ch'tibello's last run was second in a 2m 4f h'cap at Aintree in early December, 97 days previous. Then, Dan Skelton said he would win the County. That's pretty cool. Arctic Fire's last run had been 418 days previous, 15 lengths second to Faugheen in an Irish Champion Hurdle. 8 yr olds Pedrobob and Rooster Booster last runs were to be placed in a Totesport/Betfair Hurdle. Alderwood was still a novice but had 12 hdle runs. Four ran in 2016, great performance by Fethard Player in 2nd. In 2013 - Manyriverstocross 25s 3rd as a 8 yr old and had been previously placed in a Betfair. Arcalis placed in 2010 as a 10 year old and a previous Festival winner. No aged horses came from the last two Betfair hurdles.

     

    5 yr olds have suppliers nine winners this century including four of the last 10 from about 35% of runners. Saint Roi was the first in four. 10 of the 24 last year this age. 7 from the 24 ni 2019, best We have A Dream in second, 7 from 27 in 2018, best was Whiskey Sour in 3rd. 2017 - 6 from 25, best was Ivanovich Gorbatov in 6th. Backed down to 5/1 fav at the off. 2016, 8 from 26 ran 1st and 4th. 12 from 25 in 2015, best 4th. First three home were 6 yr olds, 7 five yr olds from 28 in 2014 finished 1-2-4-5-6. 2013 5 ran, best Shadow Catcher in 4th. 2012 8 from 26, finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th. In 2011 Final Approach got up on the line as one of six five yr olds from 26 runners. '09 American Trilogy strolled home, 5 from 28. '08 Silver Jaro won, 4 qualifiers from 22 runners.

     

    NOVICES - 8 winning novices since '93 including four from the last nine (Saint Roi, Lac Fontana and Alderwood at 139. Ted Veale 134 and the rest of the novices in those years not rated above 135). One unplaced last year, three ran 2018 best Whiskey Sour in 3rd. 5 in 2017, best Air Horse One in 4th. 2016 3 best Wait for Me in fourth. 2015, 5 tried best Max Dynamite under Ruby in 4th rating 137. (that was when he was heard saying something(s) under his breath when Wicklow Brave jogged past under P Townend. Mind you he was probably even more cross two years later when he was on 11/1 shot Rennetti and Paul went past again, this time on Arctic Fire).

     

    That means that the last 18 winners were 7 novices and 9 second season hurdlers. Plus Ch'tibello and Arctic Fire who had placed in this before and in a Champion Hurdle.

     

    WEIGHT - Only 5 since 1960 have carried over 11st 2 lb but having said that, 7 of last 23 carried over 11st to victory. Ch'tibello had 11st 5 lbs plus Arctic Fire Blowing Wind, Spirit Leader and Rooster Booster. All bar Arctic Fire started 12/1 or under. Blowing Wind came straight from Sandown's Imperial Cup. Spirit Leader and Rooster Booster were 1st and 2nd in a Tote Gold Trophy. Alderwood at 20s, his 11st 1lb was in a compressed handicap where bottom weight had 10st 8lbs. Bottom weight going back the last three years have been 10st 9lbs off 133, 10st oh4lbs 127 and 10st 5lbs 0ff 133. Bottom weight won it in 2016 off 10st 12lbs. 2015 bottom weight carried 11st. Seems to go in and out of fashion.

     

    TOP WEIGHTS - Arctic Fire at 11st 12lb first winner to carry over 11st 8lbs since 1960. Beat L'Ami Serge 25/1 carrying 11-6. Last year Aramon 8/1 off 149 in 2nd carried 11st 11lbs. As did We Have A Dream carried 11st 11lb in second last year. Only the third horse to be placed with over 11st 8lb since 1979. Diakali impressed in 4th 2014 with 11st 12lb. (Backed it up when beaten on the line by The New One in the Aintree Hurdle). Mulllins/Henderson theme? Fethard Player 2nd in 2016 carrying 11st 6lb. Remiluc highest weighted placed horse in 2018 carrying 11st 2 lb.

     

    RATINGS - Saint Roi tossed in off 137. 10lb in hand? Ch'tibello off 146, Mohayeed off 139. (Dan Skelton was all for pulling him out because of the ground). Arctic Fire's winning rating was 158. Beat L'Ami Serge off 152. Previous 12 were rated between 128 and 139. Superb Story, also from the Skeltons, 138. 19 from last 22 rated between 128 and 144. (Ch'tibello 146, Fire 158, Sporazene 151) Eight off the last ten rated between 134 and 139).

     

    All bar Saint Roi, Ch'tibello and Mohayeed of the last 15 achieved their best RPR minimum of 129 on a left handed track. Of those twelve all bar Arctic Fire achieved that within their last three runs. His was when 11/2 lengths second to Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle. Ch'tibello achieved his 158 when 3rd of 5 to Yanworth (god help us) in a Xmas Hurdle, Mohayeed achieved his best RPR of 147 last time out when 6l third to Buveur D'Air in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. (Chesterfield, 4th here, had been last of four at Kempton). Superb Story best RPR of 139 last time out in the Greatwood Hurdle. A spooky Skelton stat.

     

    Difficult to win from more than 1lb out of the handicap. Lots have tried and failed to do so since Prince of Bermuda last achieved this feat in 1980. (Chietains Choice last year unplaced. One no hoper from out of the handicap in the last 12 years).

     

    PRICE - Saint Roi, morning price of 8s to 11/2fav. Ch'tibello tipped up by Kealy and Segal in the Friday comic, a solid 8s in the morning, ignored by all, returned 12s. Mohaayed 33s, Arctic Fire 20s, Superb Story 8s (and Pricewise), Wicklow Brave 25s, Lac Fontana was 11s. Ted Veale 10s, Final Approach was 12/1. Used to not cross the 16/1 barrier. However going back 2012 Alderwood, 20s, '08 Silver Jaro 33s, American Trilogy and Thousand Stars also both at 20s. Three favs and two joint favs in the last 20. Desert Quest 4/1jf 2006, Last clear favourite to win Sporazene 7/1 in 2004. Both were trained by P Nicholls. Did write here last year 'Favourite becoming due.'

     

    Since '94 only Ted Veale, Master Tern and Silver Jaro have won this having been beaten favourite last time out. Best paying race in the Festival this century for backing beaten favs last time. Two from 45 have won - profit £18 for £1 stake. Silver Jaro at 50s profited from the Pyscho ride by P Carberry (That's mischief now, remember Solwit, Bellvano, Very Wood, Nicanor amongst others). Six ran last year, best Buildmeupbuttercup in 4th. Flatters to deceive, that one. Two ran in 2019, best was Whiskey Sour 5/1 fav in fourth. Placed again. Three ran in 2018, best Lagostovegas in 5th. Three beaten favs ran in 2017. L'Ami Serge BF in 2nd had been caught up the run-in by Agrapart in the New Years Day Relkeel hurdle. No BFs last time ran in the 2016 County Hurdle. You would nearly expect the same horses to race against each other all season in these types of races. Both Ted Veale and Silver Jaro were Irish trained. No BF last winner now since 2013.

     

    Irish trained winners - Last year 11 of the 24 were trained in Ireland resulting in a 1-2-3-4-6-7. Pretty solid. In 2019, 8 of the 26 trained in Ireland, best finisher Whiskey Sour 4th. In 2018, 11 of the 27 runners were trained between Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Joseph O'Brien. Willie returned the best result with 3rd and 5th home. In 2017 Willie Mullins' Arctic Fire won, 6 Irish contestants ran. In 2016 from 9 runners, only Fethard Player 2nd finished in the first seven home. In 2015 13 from the 25 runners were Irish Trained. Filled the first 6 places. W Mullins 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th. In 2014 only 2nd, 4th and 5th from 7 runners. 2013 Ted Veale from Tennis Cap (from 9 runners), 2012 Alderwood (8 runners), 2011 Final Approach (5 runners), 2010 Thousand Stars (6 runners), Silver Jaro '08 won from Psycho (7 runners), Pedrobob '07. Spirit Leader ’03 was first Irish trained winner since ’76. Also placed in 2012 were Sailors Warn and Plan A. Nine winners in the last fourteen. Numbers going across tend to be increasing. All Irish trained winners except Saint Roi, Arctic Fire and Wicklow Brave had recent Leopardstown Form. All those three trained by W Mullins.

     

    Speaking of, Willie Mullins has had 34 runners in the past 11 renewals. Five winners and now top trainer ever in this Festival race. Five came last year resulting in a 1-2-4. Saint Roi 11/2 fav, Thousand Stars 20s, Final Approach 10s, Wicklow Brave 25s, Arctic Fire 20s. Also seconds with Aramon 8/1, Arctic Fire 7s, Tennis Cap 11s, a third with Whiskey Sour and 4ths with Buildmeupbuttercup 16/1, Whiskey Sour 5s, Diakali 5s Max Dynamite 14s. Useful. Churlish to say that he has yet to have a Festival h'cap winner over more than 2m 5f. Hardly needs one.

     

    Tony Mullins (Willie's brother) trained winners Alderwood 20s and Pedrobob. Pedrobob only a second season hurdler as an eight year old.

     

    Paul Nicholls used to be the man. 4 wins in the last 17. Used to be only home trainer able to hold the Irish hordes at bay. ’04 Sporazene, ’06 Desert Quest, '09 American Trilogy and 2014 Lac Fontana. Also ’06 Pirate Flagship 4th ’07 Ouninpohja 2nd. 2012 Edgardo Sol, 2nd at 25/1, also finished 6th in 2013. Four outsiders ran in total over the last three years, well down the field on each occasion. To be fair, did pick up the Betfair Hurdle with Pic D'orphy at 33s.

     

    The current UK king of the County Hurdle is Mr Nicholls' ex-pupil, Dan Skelton, with three winners from the last five. Ch'tibello, Mohaayed, and Superb Story. All three winners given long breaks before this race. Moyaayed also 7th in 2019 but the magic didn't work last year.

     

    Ruby Walsh is the most successful jockey ever with 4 wins. His finish on Final Approach 2011 was a cracker. But didn't win it again (or any other Festival h'cap for that matter).

     

    BLINKERS, CHEEKPIECES etc - Three last year, all down the field. 10 wore headgear in the 2019 renewal, none finished in the first five. 3 tried in 2018, all unplaced. 2017 Arctic Fire wore his usual hood. Apart from him only one blinkered winner in previous 19 (American Trilogy, his second run in blinkers). In 2017, apart from Arctic Fire, 5 other tried, all unplaced. Eleven went to post in 2016, including three first timers, best Fethard Player, 2nd, in the hood he always wore. Nine tried in 2015, best finisher 5th. A massive 12 from 28 wore headgear in 2014 (No, I don't know if that's a record) best finishers Arctic Fire 2nd and Diakali 4th both in hoods. 7 failed to win in 2013.

     

    27 of last 34 in first 4 on previous outing (Not '14, '12, '10 or '09) All the last five. Not get too excited about this stat.

     

    THE SAINT ROI BOMB - First since Thumbs Up in 1993 not to have already run in a handicap. 75 had tried since '93. Not only that but Aramon in 2nd had never run in one before, either. Should have referred myself to the 'Willie Mullins doesn't give a monkeys about stats' stat. Ch'tibello ran eighth to Buveur D'Air in the 2018 Ch Hurdle. Mohaayed was 7th in this in 2017 and then finished 3rd in a Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr. Arctic Fire previously placed in this. Superb Story put away by the Skeltons since finishing second in the Greatwood. 4 of the last 16 winners ran 'well' in the Totesport/Betfair Trophy (plus Remiluc 2018). 2020 Sir Valentine 4th at Newbury, 9th here.

     

    Lac Fontana and Remiluc won the Cl2 Handicap which finishes the card on Cheltenham Trials day. Nothing came here in 2020.

     

    No winner of the Dovecote that year has won a Festival handicap hurdle in the last 30 yrs. Don't think many try.

     

    No horse has won two of these.

     

    Flaxen Flare, 5th here, had been 2nd in the Boylesports (now the 88k euro to the winner Ladbrokes Hurdle). Ted Veale was 3rd in the Boylesports in 2013 before winning. Final Approach won Boylesports. Silver Jaro had been 3rd in it, two races before this. Thousand Stars unplaced in Boylesports in his year. In last years Boylesports Modem was 2nd but well down the field here. 2016 Henry Higgins Leopardstown winner unpl here. 2017 Coral Hurdle none of the first three home ran here. In each of he last two years three came from Leopardstown, all unplaced here. Off You Go hasn't come here the last two years. 2020 Mr. Charles Byrnes' Thesedaysaregone won at Leopardstown, 3rd in the Coral Cup. Buildmeupbuttercup 5th, Embittered 6th at Leop, 3rd and 4th here.

     

    COURSE WINNERS - Lac Fontana became only the second horse after Master Tern (both second season novices) to win this as previous course winners since at least 1991. Both had won the same course handicap hurdle in January. Mohayeed only qualifier last year, 10th. Six course winners ran in 2019, none finished in the first six. Of the eight course winners to run in 2018 Remiluc went close in second. Arctic Fire had finished second twice in two previous Festivals but no C.

     

    14 from the last 19 winners had no course placed form. Only 8 from the last 22 had actually run at a previous Festival. Arctic Fire by far the best course form of those. 11 from the last 15 had no previous Festival Form.

    However 14 from last 19 had all been beaten here before in a hurdle (including all bar Saint Roi of the past seven) Ted Veale, Alderwood, Final Approach and Spirit Leader had not run here before).

     

    Maiden hurdle at Cheltenham in October usually run on good ground has had an interesting history. '10 King of the Night won easy in Oct 'still right there when fell 4 out' in Sir Des Champs's Festival win. '09 The Jigsaw Man won 4 races after. In '07 race was won easy by Snap Tie who went on to finish 3rd in the Supreme Novices. 2012 winner Court Minstrel didn't run at festival but won G2 at Ayr in April. 2014 Lac Fontana did the double. Didn't work for four years then in 2018 Thomas Darby bt Elixir Du Nuts. Last season October Heaven Help Us bt Master Debonair and Fred. Reasonable novice form for both years.

     

    Skybet Supreme Novice Trial at Cheltenham has produced American Trilogy and Lac Fontana. No help last year.

     

    Imperial Cup (weekend before). 5 winners of that event since 1990 ran in the County. Moody Man and Blowing Wind won under a big weight and Carlito Brigante finished second. Floyd also did the double in 1985. Last two Pipe trained Imperial winners Gaspara and Ashkazar took the easier route with the 4 yr old handicap. '09 Dave's Dream 7/2 fav here and unplaced. '11 Alarazi unplaced favourite here. No luck in the next three. 2015 Ebony Express won at Sandown and then finished 19th behind Wicklow Brave who had refused to go a yard at Sandown at 9/1. 2016 Flying Angel 2nd in Imperial Cup then 2nd in Martin Pipe Conditionals. No good in 2019, waterlogged 2020, abandoned.

     

    21 from last 26 had run at least 4 times that season (not Saint Roi two runs, Arctic Fire, not at all, Superb Story, twice, Lac Fontana, 3 runs, Final Approach, just the two). Wicklow Brave at least had started four races. 29 of the last 33 winners all had at least 3 previous runs that season (Roi, Fire, Superb and Final Approach, the exceptions. Mullins theme there?). 15 of the last 25 had been out at least 5 times. Here I used to use the phrase 'battle hardened' but I'm not sure that is now totally correct.
     

    All bar Saint Roi of the last 23 between 4 and 19 total runs over hurdles. (Roi only 2 in Ire, Ch'tibello has extended this stat from 17 to 19 runs. Mohayeed 9, Arctic Fire 17, Ted Veale and American T only 4). 12 from the last 15 no more than 12 runs over hurdles.

     

    13 from last 23 ran in the last 35 days (not those that came direct from the Boylesports or Trials day, Saint Roi 1st Jan, Mohayeed Boxing Day, Ch'tibello 8th Dec). Better to say none of the last five seen since 1st January.

     

    3 of the last 21 won carrying a penalty (from small numbers, Crooks Peak 5lbex 2019 in 20th).

     

    WINNING CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS - 2018 Bridget Andrews (3) joined Katie Walsh (3) 2010, Jimmy Moffatt (3) on a famous win with Home Counties 1995, David Bridgewater (7) Winnie The Witch 1991. (The latter two winning for their fathers). Five tried last year, best Mr C Sam Waley-Cohen(3) 5th. Not one usually to whinge, but don't think it a good ride. Couldn't get her to settle, raced too close to the pace, picked off by the finishers. Seven tried in 2019, none better than 10th. Five others finished behind Bridget and Mohaayed, Harry Reed (5) in second, and Daniel Sansom (5) in fourth. Seven in 2017, best finisher JJ Slevin (3) in 6th. 5 in 2016 best David Mullins (3) on Fethard Player in 2nd. 4 in 2015 best Shane Shortall (5), 3rd on QuickJack. 4 in 2014, all unplaced. 8 tried in 2013 best H Derham 6th on Edgardo Sol, 3 tried in 2012, H Derham best again in 2nd.

     

    David Mullins had already won a G1 Morgiana on Nichols Canyon, Katie had already won the 4 miler that week on Poker de Sivola, Harry Derham had won a G3 Greatwood Hurdle on Brampour. This was Bridget's first major success, though she had won a Cl2 handicap hurdle at Haydock.

     

    Don't be betting with a bookie who doesn't pay at least 5th place. A lot will go six places.

     

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Wealth Warning.  Any decisions made (or not) or the basis of any information in this site are the sole responsibility of the reader.  There is no obligation on me to follow my own advice.  I take no responsibility for (but am keen to hear of) any factual errors.  (Bgault01@gmail.com, @gaultstats). Previous years ‘stats on stats’ would suggest we may identify a decent priced winner from manageable groups every three or four races.  It is believed that Savello (2014 Grand Annual) took from Golden Chieftain (2013 3m hcap chase) the record for breaking the most stats in a race.  Stands now at 8.  Cole Harden equalised with 8 in the 2015 World Hurdle.  Remember, after you have cursed/laughed at me and given up totally on trends, they will come back to bite.  Always happens.  Usually on Gold Cup Day. 

Beware GO SEA - Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged by Alcohol.  A Cotswold condition very common at this time of year.