Traditionally the Festival "getting out stakes", the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, has now been moved forward to be one of three hurdle races run before the Gold Cup on Friday to ensure fresh ground on the chase course.
This race is probably the most competitive of all of the events run over the four days. The pace is fast and furious from the off, and numerous winners have made up seemingly impossible amounts of ground after the turn into the straight to get their noses in front on the line, so however desperate thing look, don’t rip up your ticket too early!
2017 Arctic Fire
2016 Superb Story
2015 Wicklow Brave
2014 Lac Fontana
2013 Ted Veale
2011 Final Approach
2010 Thousand Stars
2009 American Trilogy
2008 Silver Jaro
2006 Desert Quest
2003 Spirit Leader
2002 Rooster Booster
2000 Master Tern
1999 Sir Talbot
1998 Blowing Wind
1997 Barna Boy
1996 Star Rage
1995 Home Counties
2012 County Hurdle Review
ALDERWOOD continued the run of double-figure price winners when obliging at 20/1, which was a surprisingly big SP when you consider he was ridden by Tony McCoy. He needed all the champ's strength too as, after rallying to lead at the last, he had to dig deep to hold off the late challenge of Edgardo Sol (25/1) to win by three quarters of a length.
In what was a real 'skinner' for bookmakers, with the remaining placings filled by Sailors Warn and and Plan A, who were priced at 16/1 and 20/1 respectively. The race favourite, Citizenship (11/2), never really got in a blow, finishing 14th of the 26 runners, with several other fancied runners failing to give their true running.
2011 County Hurdle Review
Willie Mullins' Irish raider Final Approach won the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle after surviving a nail-biting a photo-finish with gallant runner-up Get Me Out Of Here (7-1).
Jonjo O'Neill's heavily gambled on star looked to have the race won inside the final furlong but Irish jockey Ruby Walsh beat his old rival Tony McCoy by a nose after a thrilling battle. Nearby (66-1) was third with Cockney Trucker (33-1) fourth.
2010 County Hurdle Review
A wonderful Festival for the fairer sex, both equine and human, got even better as Katie Walsh followed up her win in the National Hunt Chase with success here on board THOUSAND STARS just forty eight hours later.
And what a fine ride she gave the winner.
He looked out of contention approaching two out, but it was there that his young jockey conjured up what was ultimately to be a winning run. He past at least a dozen horses from that point, but ultimately won going away, having taken the lead at the last.
These large fields and end to end gallops clearly suit him and he seems adaptable regarding ground conditions.
An old Festival favourite, Arcalis also had plenty to do two out, but finished as well as anything bar the winner. He seems to save his best for the big meetings and often runs well in the spring when the better ground brings out the best in him.
Connections of Dee Ee Williams must have thought they were going to land the prize turning for home, but he was a sitting duck for the fast finishers and eventually finished third.
Zanir (fourth), also seemed to be going well entering the home straight, but lacked the speed of the first two. He may be worth a try over further, as may the fifth, Noble Prince who appreciated the better ground here and should be an exciting recruit to fences next season.
Gloucester (sixth) loves an end to end gallop, but ultimately struggles to stay a strongly run two miles on a stiff track like this. He is yet to win a handicap over hurdles.
Secret World (seventh), a decent horse on the Flat, is still a novice over hurdles and may prove to be the one to take from the race. One could easily see him popping up to win a big race at a nice price in the future, possibly over further.
Keki Buku was another fast finisher and should pay his way over fences next season.
2009 County Hurdle Review
The traditional Festival finale enjoyed a new spot in the programme this year, being the second race on the final day. However, the different slot didn’t make picking the winner any easier as the first four home were priced up at odds of 20/1, 66/1, 17/2 and 50/1.
In the end, there was a surprisingly clear cut winner, with AMERICAN TRILOGY continuing the incredible run of success for the Nicholls / Walsh combination at this year’s meeting. Interestingly, the time was slightly slower than that posted by Zaynar in the Triumph half an hour earlier.
After a promising start to his career in the UK, the winner had lost his way slightly in recent weeks, but the decent ground and end-to-end gallop clearly brought out the best in him here, and this was a fine effort for a novice. It is worth noting that five year olds are starting to get a strong record in this contest.
Stradbrook followed the winner home at a respectable distance. Having been well off the pace turning in, he stayed on strongly up the straight. He never looked like getting to American Trilogy, however.
Cockney Trucker was disputing the lead at the last, but the winner was cruising at the time and Cockney Trucker was readily brushed aside. He kept on gamely for third.
Nortonthorpe Lad ran a cracker for his small stable in fourth. He was another to come from well off the pace and, like the runner up, was doing his best work at the death.
Kandari, in fifth, was the only one travelling anything like as well as the winner as the field swept round the final bend. This was only his fourth start over hurdles, so there should be plenty more to come from this gelding, who is another five year old.
The favourite, Dave’s Dream (sixth) should also have a bright future, albeit over fences. He lacked the pace to go with the leaders when the race began in earnest, but he appeared to get a second wind after the last and gained a number of places on the run in.
Arcalis (seventh) ran well under a big weight, whilst Bedlam Boy (ninth) is another to keep an eye on when he switches to fences.
Amazingly, all twenty seven finished, and the field trailed back to Clopf, who could easily have finished in the first half dozen, but for a horrendous mistake at the last.
2008 County Hurdle Review
Punters looking to get of jail in the last race of the 2009 Festival were out of luck as 50/1 shot SILVER JARO pulled off one of the shocks of the meeting by taking the finale for the Irish.
Formerly trained by Jonjo O’Neill, the five year old had hinted at the possibility of big race success when an excellent third in the Pierse Hurdle on his penultimate start, and he held on in determined fashion here having gone about three lengths up at the last.
This probably wasn’t a vintage County Hurdle (the horse at the head of the handicap had the lowest rating of any of his predecessors since the race obtained Grade 3 status) and the winning time was slower than that of the Triumph Hurdle.
The one potential improver in the race though was the heavily backed Psycho and he was the one left to chase the winner all the way to the line. Having been settled out the back early on, he was given an awful lot to do by Paul Carberry and in the end dejected punters were left wishing he had started his effort earlier as the horse was less than a length adrift at the death. This was definitely one that got away, but the winner should be given credit for finding as much as he did after the last.
Another outsider, French Saulaie, was third at 40/1. He saves his best for these big field handicaps as the strong pace suits his style of racing, and he clearly wasn’t inconvenienced by a return to hurdles here after a relatively fruitless try over the larger obstacles.
Punter’s misery was complete when 66/1 shot Rio De Janeiro stayed on strongly for fourth, whilst Missis Potts (in fifth) continues to look like a big race winner in waiting. Decent ground suits Phillip Hobbs’ mare and she may be worth another try at a longer trip.
The well fancied I’msingingtheblues was last of the main body of runners turning for home and so did really well to finish as close as he did. It may just be that he lacked the pace to stay close to the early pace, but nonetheless this was a fine effort from such an inexperienced horse and had he not fluffed the last he would have been even closer. He’s another who may be suited by further in time.
Premier Dane (sixth), Mon Michel (eighth) and King’s Revenge (ninth) are all game and consistent hurdlers, but the handicapper knows all about them and they may prove hard to win with in the near future.
2007 County Hurdle Review
A top class renewal of this traditional Festival finale with the field made up of this year's Champion Hurdle fifth and Arkle second, former winners of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Triumph Hurdle, a couple of high class novices and numerous key players from some of the top handicaps already run this season.
The winner was one of those horses to come here battled hardened from the hustle and bustle of big field handicaps as PEDROBOB improved on his third in the Totesport Trophy at Newbury to triumph in thrilling fashion .
The winner looked to be in trouble turning for home as he had at least ten horses in front of him at that point, plenty of whom were travelling better than him. However, he really picked up after the last to pass a line of eight horses who were strung across the track on the run in. He is likely to face quite a hike in the weights for this success and may, therefore, be switched to fences next season.
Ouninpohja looked all over the winner coming to the last, but to the dismay of punters, who had sent him off one of the favourites, and Ruby Walsh, who needed a win here to claim the prize for leading jockey at the Festival, he was just caught by the winner in the shadow of the post.
Ouninpohja is a quirky customer and has never been an easy ride whether on the flat or over hurdles, but Ruby couldn’t have done much more as he delivered his challenge as late as he dare. The horse has bags of class but finds little for pressure and tends to pull up in front. Nevertheless, this was a good effort for a novice.
Premier Dane ran his best race for some time in third, completing a fine meeting for trainer Nicky Richards. However, he may be another not to trust implicitly.
Kawagino put in a remarkable effort in fourth, as this race came just 72 hours after his fine effort in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle. He deserves to win a big race, but always seems to find a few too good. He tends to get a bit outpaced early on in his races, which is probably why Cheltenham, with its stiff uphill finish, suits him so well.
Arcalis also ran well under a big weight. He has been waiting all season for some decent ground and may even prefer it a bit quicker than this. A dry winter next year could see him force his way back into the Champion Hurdle picture.
Caracciola finished just one place behind Pedrobob in the Totesport Trophy, and although he was five places behind him today he was beaten less than three lengths. He is another who seems to thrive on the better ground at this time of year.
Remarkably, all twenty eight runners completed the course, so there were no obvious hard luck stories. However, the favourite, Fair Along, faded quickly after being up with the pace for a long way. Tuesday’s exertions in the Arkle had clearly taken their toll on this usually ultra consistent horse.
2006 County Hurdle Review
A fascinating renewal of this traditional Festival finale, with two exciting young hurdlers dominating the finish ahead of a remarkable veteran in third. However, it is hard to know exactly how good the form is as the time was slightly slower than that recorded by the winner of the Triumph hurdle earlier in the day.
DESERT QUEST was certainly visually impressive, as Ruby Walsh delivered this slightly quirky character at the perfect time to scoot clear after the last. He clearly has an impressive turn of foot, relishes decent ground and is suited by a fast pace, all of which suggest he could make up into a Champion Hurdle contender next year.
The same can be said of the runner up, Noble Quest, who has a very similar profile and running style to the winner. In fact, if anything, he could have done with even quicker ground than he encountered here. He was giving the winner a pound and is a year younger and so may be capable of reversing the form in the future.
Adamant Approach, the 12 year old, ran a marvellous race in third. He briefly went clearly turning for home and still led approaching the last, only to be passed by his younger rivals on the climb to the line. He may well have beaten Like A Butterfly in the 2002 Supreme Novices Hurdle but for falling at the last and had things gone his way a bit more during a wonderful career he would surely have competed for a Champion Hurdle or two. A big prize is still within his grasp despite his advancing years, and he certainly deserves one.
Pirate Flagship was finishing as well as anything, only to veer left in the closing stages and throw away any chance he had. Khetaam was also doing his best work at the death having come from a long way back.
Borora, in sixth, is something of a County Hurdle specialist. He seems to save his best for this race, having finished 3rd at big odds last year.
Lord Henry did well to hang on to seventh, having taken a fierce hold and set a strong pace from the outset.
Of the rest, favourite Studmaster would probably have preferred slightly softer ground – he seemed short of pace on this faster surface.