County Handicap Hurdle Betting Tips – Expert Predictions

The County Hurdle is the premium 2m handicap run at the Cheltenham Festival. The race often attracts a competitive field and winners must be able to handle the hustle and bustle of what is traditionally one of the largest fields of the week. Our experts at GG have produced their County Handicap Hurdle tips and predictions for the race to aid you in your search for the winner.

County Handicap Hurdle Bookmaker Odds – Race 2, Friday 17th March 2:10

Filey BayHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Mark Walsh
T: Emmet Mullins
Hunters YarnHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Paul Townend
T: Willie Mullins
Gin CocoHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Jonathan Burke
T: Harry Fry
PembrokeHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Harry Skelton
T: Dan Skelton
SharjahHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Patrick Mullins
T: Willie Mullins
Winter FogHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Kieran Callaghan (7)
T: Willie Mullins
AucunrisqueHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Tom Cannon
T: Chris Gordon
Path D’orouxHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Keith Donoghue
T: Gavin Cromwell
First StreetHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Nico de Boinville
T: Nicky Henderson
Petit TonnerreHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Jonjo O’Neill Jr
T: Jonjo O’Neill
Pied PiperHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Davy Russell
T: Gordon Elliott
BallyadamHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Rachael Blackmore
T: Henry De Bromhead
PinkertonHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Sean Flanagan
T: Noel Meade
WonderwallHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Sean Bowen
T: Richard Spencer
Magnor GloryHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Michael O’Sullivan (3)
T: Terence O’Brien
MilkwoodHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Sam Twiston-Davies
T: Neil Mulholland
Prairie DancerHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Brendan Powell
T: Joseph Patrick O’Brien
Saint SamHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Jack Foley (3)
T: Willie Mullins
Anna BuninaHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Ben Harvey (5)
T: John C McConnell
Glory And FortuneHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Stan Sheppard
T: Tom Lacey
Highland ChargeHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Sam Ewing
T: Noel Meade
Highway One O TwoHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Freddie Gordon (7)
T: Chris Gordon
Nibiru (RESERVE)Horse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: RESERVE
T: A J Martin
FaivoirHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Bridget Andrew
T: Dan Skelton
GlanHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Luke Dempsey
T: Gordon Elliott
Teddy Blue (RESERVE)Horse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Jamie Moore
T: Gary Moore
GanapathiHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Alan Doyle (5)
T: Patrick Neville
Luttrell LadHorse Profile - Jockey ColoursJ: Harry Cobden
T: Tom Lacey

All About The McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle in 2023

Sponsored by the McCoy Contractors for the second time, the County Hurdle takes place over 2m1f of Cheltenham’s New Course. The race tends to attract a strong field of 20+ runners, with a combination of experienced handicappers and unexposed novices making it one of the toughest puzzles of the week to decipher.

Whilst it is tough to predict exactly who will be making the line-up until final declarations are declared, the nature of the handicap often sees horses who have progressed throughout the season taking on less experienced types who may have a bit more in hand off their ratings.

The Skelton team have enjoyed notable success in the County Hurdle in recent years, sending out Superb Story (2016), Mohaayed (2018) and Ch’tibello (2019) to land the contest.

They look well armed once again, with Pembroke one of the market favourites for this year’s renewal. This 6YO was just touched off in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle in January but had won his previous two races in impressive fashion.

Another yard that has happened to do well in the County Hurdle in recent seasons has been that of Cheltenham specialist Willie Mullins. He has sent out four winners in the last eight years and will be well stocked in a bid to enhance that record in 2023.

His best chance this year looks to be Hunters Yarn, who has won two of his three races over hurdles, with the defeat coming on debut. His last effort saw him run out a cosy winner in Listed company in February, so he should be fully primed for a big effort. 

Emmet Mullins is one of the shrewdest trainers around and his runner Filey Bay will be bidding to reverse form with Aucunrisque, who got the better of him in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury when last seen. Prior to that, he had run out a comfortable winner of both other races this season, and a bold bid is expected here.

Aucunrisque saw off Filey Bay in the Betfair Hurdle in February and the pair could renew their rivalry in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle is open to horses aged 5yo or older and – barring incident – requires the field to jump eight hurdles over the 2m1f distance of the New Course.

Cheltenham’s New Course is traditionally seen to provide a greater stamina test than that of the Old Course, and it can see horses that go for home too soon swallowed up in the dash to the line – as such, anything held up for a late run should be feared.

The Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton yards have proven particularly potent in the County Hurdle in recent years, with all but one renewal from 2015-2022 going to Skelton or Mullins.

Irish trainer Peter Fahey broke that sequence when sending out Belfast Banter to score in 2021, and this is a race where the Irish have done well down the years – with the likes of Arctic Fire (2017), Saint Roi (2020) and State Man (2022) all scoring for Irish yards.

Although 2021 winner Belfast Banter sneaked into the race off a bottom weight of just 10st, weight hasn’t proved a barrier to the success in the County Hurdle, with 2017 winner Arctic Fire scoring off top weight in 2017. Four of the last eight renewals have been won by horses weighing 11st or higher.

Favourites had previously had a particularly poor record in the County Hurdle, with no horse that occupied favouritism going on to land the spoils since 4/1J Desert Quest took the race for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh in 2006. However, that changed last year as State Man justified his short odds to win the 2022 renewal. 

This is a race that can throw up a big odds winner though, with recent winners of the race coming home at 25/1, 33/1 and even a huge 50/1!

Apprentice and conditional riders value for their claim can be seen to big race success at the Cheltenham Festival, yet the County Hurdle has been a race traditionally more for the professionals, with only Bridget Andrews (Mohaayed, 2018) and Katie Walsh (Thousand Stars, 2010) scoring for claiming riders in recent years.

2023 County Handicap Hurdle Prize Money

This race is often one of the most valuable handicaps run at the Festival. Last year’s connections of State Man took home just over £56,000, with a total pot of over £98,000 ensuring the first eight home received prize money.

The prize pot for the 2023 renewal is £100,000.

County Handicap Hurdle History

The County Handicap Hurdle is one of the longest standing handicaps at the Festival, having been incepted as far back as 1920.

The race was for many years contested as the last race of the entire Festival and therefore for many gained a reputation for being the ‘getting out stakes’. The County Handicap Hurdle has held many sponsors throughout the years and is now run in the name of McCoy Contractors, an engineering company based in Warwickshire. 

For over twenty years the race was run in the name Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, in name of the legendary Irish trainer, who trained no less than six Derby winners, three successive Grand Nationals and 23 Cheltenham Festival winners.

The County Handicap Hurdle is seen by many as a springboard to future Graded success, and therefore it is no real surprise that no horses has managed to win the race more than once. 

Cheltenham Festival specialist rider Ruby Walsh is the winning most jockey in the history of the County Handicap Hurdle, having taken four renewals from 2004 to 2011 his victories coming aboard Sporazene, Desert Quest, American Trilogy and Final Approach. Paul Townend could equal that record if he wins this year’s renewal. 

All three of Paul Townend’s winners were trained by Willie Mullins (as well as one of Ruby Walsh’s winners), so it’s no surprise to see that he has trained the most winners in the history of the race. He pulled further clear with a sixth win in the race last year, as State Man stayed on strongly to win going away. 

No jockey has ridden more winners in the race than Ruby Walsh. His last victory came in the 2011 renewal on board Final Approach.

Winners since 2000

2000Master TernTony DobbinJonjo O’Neill9/2F 
2002Rooster BoosterRichard JohnsonPhilip Hobbs8/1
2003Spirit LeaderBarry GeraghtyJessica Harrington10/1
2004SporazeneRuby WalshPaul Nicholls7/1J
2005FontanesiTimmy MurphyMartin Pipe16/1
2006Desert QuestRuby WalshPaul Nicholls4/1J
2007PedrobobPhilip CarberryTony Mullins12/1
2008Silver JaroNoel FehilyTom Hogan50/1
2009American TrilogyRuby WalshPaul Nicholls20/1
2010Thousand StarsKatie WalshWillie Mullins20/1
2011Final ApproachRuby WalshWillie Mullins10/1
2012AlderwoodTony McCoyThomas Mullins20/1
2013Ted VealeBryan CooperTony Martin10/1
2014Lac FontanaDaryl JacobPaul Nicholls11/1
2015Wicklow BravePaul TownendWillie Mullins25/1
2016Superb StoryHarry SkeltonDan Skelton8/1
2017Arctic FirePaul TownendWillie Mullins20/1
2018MohaayedBridget AndrewsDan Skelton33/1
2019Ch’tibelloHarry SkeltonDan Skelton12/1
2020Saint RoiBarry GeraghtyWillie Mullins11/2
2021Belfast BanterKevin SextonPeter Fahey33/1
2022State ManPaul TownendWillie Mullins11/4F

Cheltenham Festival Racing Schedule

1:30The JCB Triumph HurdleRead Tip
2:10County Handicap HurdleRead Tip
2:50Albert Bartlett  Novices’ HurdleRead Tip
3:30Cheltenham Gold CupRead Tip
4:10Hunters’ Steeple ChaseRead Tip
4:50Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ ChaseRead Tip
5:30Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap HurdleRead Tip