2020 County Hurdle tips – Two outsiders to back on day four

County Hurdle Cheltenham Festival

A view of the runners during the 2019 County Hurdle.

2020 County Handicap Hurdle Tips

Jon Vine takes a look through the betting for this handicap hurdle on day four of the Cheltenham Festival and provides two 2020 County Hurdle tips for Friday 13th March.

The opening handicap on Gold Cup day is the County Hurdle, a two-mile contest which celebrates it’s 100th anniversary in 2020. The County Hurdle was the stage of my biggest triumph as a tipster two years ago, as my 33/1 ante-post selection, Mohaayed stormed home under Bridget Andrews to land the £56k first prize.

I’ve taken a look through the recent history of this handicap hurdle and picked out with three key trends. I then cast my eye through the entries and highlighted two 2020 County Hurdle festival tips.

Three Key Trends

  • 13 of the last 15 winners went off at 10/1 or longer
  • All of the last ten winners had either won once or twice over two miles
  • Nine of the last ten winners had run in a handicap that season

The Market Leaders

Topping the market we find Ciel De Neige, who was pipped to the post by Pic D’Orhy in the Betfair Hurdle on his most recent outing. Just behind Willie Mullins’ raider, we find my old friend Mohaayed, who’s plummeted down the County Hurdle tips and betting over the week as punters have cottoned on to Dan Skelton’s plot.

While both travel to the Cheltenham Festival with obvious claims, the history of this race tells you an upset could be on the cards. In the last 12 years, we’ve seen four 20/1 winners, a 25/1 winner, 33/1 winner and even a horse who started at 50/1 claim the big prize. As such, I’ll be looking to the lower realms of the betting for both selections, in the hope I can pick out a couple of Cheltenham Festival tips who’ve been dangerously overlooked.

Saglawy Fairyhouse Hurdle

Saglawy bolts up to win a Grade Two Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse in 2018.

2020 County Hurdle Tips – Tip One

Willie Mullins has won four of the last ten editions of the County Hurdle. Amongst his raft of entries, Ciel De Neige and Janidil stand out. However, the one I’m really keen to side with, if he runs, is SAGLAWY, who operates as a 33/1 tip in the Cheltenham free bet offers, courtesy of Unibet.

A Grade Two winner during his juvenile days, Saglawy was only seen twice during an injury-hit campaign last term. Having missed the bulk of the National Hunt season, Mullins ran Saglawy three times on the flat during the autumn, watching his six-year-old secure an impressive victory at Listowel, before a pair of lengthy defeats in lucrative handicaps.

Saglawy was backed into favoritism on his return to hurdling at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. Despite being hampered at a vital stage, Paul Townend’s mount was still going well entering the home straight, only to be outstayed by Irish National winner, Burrows Saint over that two-and-a-half-mile trip. Leading Festival trainer, Willie Mullins then chucked Saglawy into the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, and his six-year-old was still going very well approaching the second-last, where a terrible error brought his challenge to an end.

I was keeping my eye on Saglawy ahead of the Betfair Hurdle, for which he did hold an entry, so it’s clear Mullins has been eyeing a handicap with this six-year-old for some time. Cheltenham remains an unknown, but course experience isn’t crucial in the County Hurdle and he has the quality to mount a strong challenge off his current mark of 146.

2020 County Hurdle Tips – Tip Two

Another left-field selection, but I really think SCARAMANGA (40/1 William Hill) could outrun his odds, so long as the ground at Cheltenham racecourse comes up favourable good.

Paul Nicholls’ five-year-old has shown flashes of real ability over hurdles. Most recently at Wincanton in December, where Scaramanga powered to an impressive victory in a competitive 15-horse handicap. Either side of that win, there have been a couple of disappointing performances in higher-profile events. Yet, Nicholls’ charge clearly wasn’t suited by bottomless ground conditions at either Chepstow or Ascot.

In preparation for a tilt at the County Hurdle, Nicholls gave Scaramanga a spin on the all-weather at Kempton. Ben Curtis’ mount ran well on the front end, before being passed by three quality rivals on the run to the line. This is a big step quality and, like the first of my Cheltenham Festival tips Saglawy, Scaramanga has never travelled to Cheltenham before. Yet, I remain confident he’s well handicapped, and top trainer Paul Nicholls could be celebrating a record fifth victory in the County Hurdle.

Note

Last year’s winner, Ch’tibello could make an appearance. However, I think a return to the Aintree Hurdle is the plan, which would shove Philip Hobbs’ Gumball to the top of the weights. If Ch’tibello was going to run at Cheltenham and it wasn’t amidst the County Hurdle tips, it would have been in the Champion Hurdle. Check out Daryl Carter’s video preview of that Championship race here…

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