The County Hurdle is a fiercely competitive handicap run over an extended two miles on the new course and there are eight flights of hurdles to jump.
Traffic problems often occur here and can produce nightmare scenarios for both runners and riders as they can often find themselves blocked in at certain stages.
Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton have been the trainers to focus on in recent years having won the last six of the last seven renewals between them (three apiece).
It often pays to ignore exposed runners with seven of the last ten winners having nine or fewer runs over hurdles.
A trend that has emerged in recent renewals is that ex-flat horses seem to be coming to the fore and as French horses seem to be developed at an enhanced rate, they seem to be well suited by this type of challenge.
Previous Winners of the County Hurdle
Runners To Watch
Below are selected runners who hold entries for the County Hurdle 2022.
Karl Hedley provides some recent form notes to help point you in the right direction of identifying the winner.
STATE MAN – WILLIE MULLINS
State Man made his debut for Willie Mullins at Leopardstown back in December but didn’t read the script and went crashing out at the second last hurdle.
He has come out subsequently at Limerick and made amends winning a maiden hurdle my no fewer than a dozen lengths.
This is his first attempt in handicap company and he needs to prove that he is up for the hustle and bustle of such a race.
TOP BANDIT – GORDON ELLIOTT
Top Bandit seems to be at the top of the market simply because of his connections.
Previous course winners have only taken two renewals of this race and he also has no flat experience to call upon.
That has been a necessity of recent winners of this race. In saying that he comes here very much at the top of his game and he has been rested since winning at Punchestown back in December.
This is some ask on what will effectively be his handicap debut though and better value lies elsewhere.
His trainer has had seventeen attempts to land this race so far and no darts have hit the bullseye yet.
WEST CORK – DAN SKELTON
West Cork made a spectacular return to action with a win over the course and distance he back in November when winning the Greatwood Hurdle.
He was sent off at a much shorter price next time at Ascot in the Betfair Exchange Trophy and he was beaten at least sixteen lengths.
A return to this track will certainly be in his favour and the yard has an uncanny knack of winning this of late.
Only three horses that have won this in the last ten years were unplaced last time out. A chance but could be vulnerable to speedier types.
SURPRISE PACKAGE – PETER FAHEY
Surprise Package lived up to his name when he bounded clear in the Imperial Cup at Sandown on Saturday.
A 5lb penalty may well not prevent a follow-up, even in this much tougher race, if he reproduces that form.
The yard won this last year with Belfast Banter so he has to command respect.
COLONEL MUSTARD – LORNA FOWLER
Colonel Mustard has run five times in the last 12 months, when placed in four Graded novice hurdles as well as winning a maiden hurdle at Galway in October.
He finished behind Jonbon and Sir Gerhard the last twice and if that form is taken literally, he ought not to be too far away.
I LIKE TO MOVE IT – NIGEL TWISTON-DAVIES
I Like To Move It completed a hat-trick when landing a three-runner Grade 2 novice here back in November.
He was back on track with short-head second on his handicap debut in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month.
The yard seems to be struggling to for form at this meeting with a few of their leading lights fading badly. He may be another.
CORMIER – BRIAN ELLISON
Cormier won over the course and distance back in January and followed up in the Morebattle at Kelso just 13 days ago.
He faces a tougher assignment today under a 5-pound penalty and further improvement is needed.
If there is a strong pace and if deploying his attack from the back attitude, he could have minor claims.
MY MATE MOZZIE – JOHN MCCONNELL
Tailed off in Grade 1 at Leopardstown last month when perhaps the yielding to soft going didn’t suit, so the arrival of Wednesday’s rain is a major concern.
He has the potential off this mark based on his earlier good-ground 2m novice form, namely a Grade 3 win at Navan and a Grade 1 near-miss at Fairyhouse.
Connections will hope that the forecast for drying weather is accurate and then he could have a part to play.
Ticks The Right Boxes?
2022 County Hurdle Tips & Key Trends
When Peter Fahey turned up at Sandown with SURPRISE PACKAGE he looked as though he was chasing a potential bonus for landing this too.
His prayers could well be answered as we all know that the horse is bouncing and in rude health.
If none too worse for his exertions in the last few days, the six-year-old could well follow in the footsteps of Belfast Banter who won this for the yard last season.
Selection: SURPRISE PACKAGE
Likely E/W Player: Colonel Mustard
- 17 of the last 21 winners were novices or second season hurdlers
- 13 of the past 18 winners used to race on the flat
- 8 of the past 20 winners have returned at SPs of 20/1 or bigger
Odds With Betfred – correct at time of publication
- 9/2 State Man
- 7/1 Top Bandit
- 15/2 Colonel Mustard
- 8/1 West Cork
- 10/1 Surprise Package
- 14/1 I Like To Move It
- 16/1 My Mate Mozzie
- 18/1 Cormier
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