TIP: LEAU DU SUD

Danger: FAIVOIR

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 eight of the last ten renewals between them.

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 of 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 our previews and County Hurdle tips for selected runners who hold entries for the race in 2024.

Karl Hedley provides some recent form notes to help point you in the right direction of identifying the winner.

ABSURDE – WILLIE MULLINS & PAUL TOWNEND

Absurde was a high-class performer on the flat as demonstrated his prowess by winning the Ebor last August.

However, he has yet to fully translate that ability to hurdles, and the soft ground forecasted may pose a challenge.

Nonetheless, his Grade 1 fourth at Leopardstown over this trip last month behind Ballyburn, Slade Steel, and King Of Kingsfield, indicates a step in the right direction.

Considering his form on the flat, he retains potential off his current mark.

AFADIL – PAUL NICHOLLS & FREDDIE GINGELL (5)

Afadil showcased his capabilities with a decisive victory at Musselburgh at this trip last month after initially struggling to progress this season.

Despite facing a tougher race today at a different track with a five pound higher mark, his commendable eighth-place finish in last season’s Fred Winter at Cheltenham suggests he might have more to offer, especially given his previous form.

BIALYSTOK – WILLIE MULLINS & DANNY MULLINS

Bialystok, a winner of a competitive handicap at the Punchestown festival last April displayed promise with a three length fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle at Fairyhouse over this trip in December.

Despite being brought down two out in a competitive Leopardstown handicap last month while going well, he remains a contender for this race.

BY YOUR SIDE – GORDON ELLIOTT & JAKE COEN

By Your Side, an experienced five-year-old, demonstrated improvement with runner-up finishes in competitive handicaps at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown over this trip in December.

Although in his recent run at Leopardstown, he was hampered by slight interference two out, and he needs to elevate his performance to compete effectively in today’s race.

FAIVOIR – DAN SKELTON & TRISTAN DURRELL (3)

Faivoir, although inconsistent, demonstrated promise by finishing very close off his current mark in the Imperial Cup at Sandown over this trip last Saturday.

Despite his jockey reporting some wandering during the race, he remains firmly in contention for success today, especially considering his previous victory in this race last year when there was plenty of give in the ground.

KING OF KINGSFIELD – GORDON ELLIOTT & JACK KENNEDY

King Of Kingsfield, a runner-up in the Grade 1 Royal Bond in December, has demonstrated his ability with a maiden victory at Leopardstown and a third-place finish in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown over this trip last month.

With strong credentials from his recent performances, he enters this race as a strong contender.

L’EAU DU SUD – DAN SKELTON & HARRY SKELTON

L’Eau Du Sud, was a French 4yo Listed winner in April 2022 and has shown consistent improvement with each British run.

Despite a slight setback last November, he delivered a fine second-place finish in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury over this trip last month.

With a preference from his jockey over stablemate Faivoir and effective performances on both heavy and good to soft ground, he is a strong contender for victory today.

MAGICAL ZOE – HENRY DE BROMHEAD & ADRIAN HESKIN

Magical Zoe, a runner-up in a Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over C&D at this meeting last year, has continued to impress this season with a second-place finish on her handicap debut at Leopardstown last month.

Trained by a leading yard, this lightly raced six-year-old mare is expected to put forth a competitive performance today.

MEDIA NARANJA – GORDON ELLIOTT & JORDAN GAINFORD

She finished third out of eleven in a four-year-old fillies’ handicap over the same course and distance on good ground last April.

She has put in some respectable performances in soft-ground handicaps in Ireland this winter, but she currently carries a four pound penalty and requires improvement to be competitive.

MR FREEDOM – SHEENA WEST & MARK GOLDSTEIN

Mr Freedom has put in solid performances this season, including a victory at Plumpton over this trip eleven days ago.

Despite carrying a five-pound penalty in this stronger race today, his commendable fifth-place finish in last season’s Fred Winter at the Festival indicates his potential to excel in today’s race, potentially at generous odds.

PETIT TONERRE – JONJO O’NEILL & JONJO O’NEILL JR

Petit Tonnerre, having gone chasing this season without success, finds himself four pounds lower than when finishing seventh in this race last year on similar ground.

While his recent performances have been underwhelming, his previous form suggests he could be in contention for a place today, especially with the addition of a visor.

PIED PIPER – GORDON ELLIOTT & DANNY GILLIGAN

Pied Piper, third in the 2022 Triumph Hurdle over this course and distance and was narrowly beaten in this race last year again on soft, remains competitive with a recent okay performance behind State Man in a Punchestown Grade 1.

With a slight weight advantage compared to last year, he is expected to be in contention once again and cannot be ruled out.

RISK BELLE – WILLIE MULLINS & JODY MCGARVEY

Risk Belle, despite a commendable performance in last season’s Fred Winter and a Grade 3 victory in December, has failed to impress in recent outings and requires an improvement in form to compete effectively today.

SAMUI – GORDON ELLIOTT & SAM EWING

Samui, although disappointing in his last outing, previously displayed potential with a victory in a big-field four-year-old handicap at Listowel over this trip.

With an unexposed profile and effective performances on soft ground, he remains a contender for success today.

SO SCOTTISH – EMMETT MULLINS & DONAGH MEYLER

So Scottish is well handicapped based on his chase form and he showed promise with a fourth-place finish in a competitive handicap hurdle at Leopardstown over this trip last month.

With potential for improvement, he is considered an intriguing contender for victory today.

WESTPORT COVE – WILLIE MULLINS & MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN

Westport Cove finished fourth in a listed novice hurdle at Punchestown last month and must step up his performance.

However, prior to that, he came close to defeating his stablemate Quai De Bourbon at Clonmel on heavy ground, with Quai De Bourbon being the current hot ante-post favorite for today’s Martin Pipe.

Despite needing improvement, Westport Cove is still relatively unexposed and shouldn’t be discounted.

ZENTA – WILLIE MULLINS & MARK WALSH

Zenta achieved a fine third-place finish in the Triumph Hurdle over the same course and distance and under similar conditions last March before winning a Grade 1 four-year-old hurdle at Aintree.

With only two runs this season, including a good third of twenty-one on her handicap debut at Leopardstown this five-year-old has potential for improvement.

Despite needing to elevate her performance, Zenta is in capable hands and remains a contender.

Ticks The Right Boxes?

2024 County Hurdle Tips & Key Trends

TIP: LEAU DU SUD

Danger: FAIVOIR

The novice King Of Kingsfield, trained by Gordon Elliott, certainly stands out after his third-place finish behind Ballyburn and Slade Steel in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last month.

Additionally, last year’s Ebor winner, Absurde, presents an intriguing prospect for Willie Mullins, potentially benefitting from a favourable mark.

However, the preference lies with L’EAU DU SUD, who boasts proven handicap hurdle form.

He delivered an impressive second-place finish in last month’s Betfair Hurdle, leaving Go Dante and Faivoir trailing behind, both of whom featured prominently in Saturday’s Imperial Cup.

Despite Faivoir’s strong showing at Sandown and his previous victory in this race, the decision of Harry Skelton to ride stablemate L’Eau Du Sud suggests the pair could continue Dan Skelton’s impressive record of accomplishment in this event.

Faivoir remains a solid second choice.

Key trends

  • 7 of the past 9 winners started their careers in France (6 were French-bred)
  • 9 of the past 15 winners were unbeaten
  • 8 of the past 12 winners contested the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (3 were successful)
  • 19 of the past 26 winners won last time out