County Handicap Hurdle Race Card

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Second race of Gold Cup Day

The County Handicap Hurdle is the second race on Gold Cup day. It is the first of the handicaps on the day and is ran on the new Cheltenham course.

The race is run over 2 miles, with eight hurdles for the runners. Horses five and older are eligible to enter, with the required handicap mark to make the final field often changing year on year.

There is prize money of £56,000 to the winner, with the race given Grade three status.

History of the County Handicap Hurdle

The race is one of the older races at the festival, with its inaugural running in 1920 and the race was often in out and of the programme, with it not being ran in some years.

In 1995, the title of the race was changed in tribute to the great trainer, Vincent O’Brien, with the race being named the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, following his retirement in 1994.

Up until 2009, the County was traditionally known as the closing race of the Cheltenham festival however it was then rescheduled to be the second race on Gold Cup day.

The race is currently sponsored by Randox Health.

Recent years

Ch’tibello was the 2019 winner, for Harry Skelton with brother Dan on board. The pair also combined for victory in 2016 and it was a third victory in four years for Harry Skelton between 2016 and 2019.

Skelton’s quick rise and his impressive record in the race already puts him within one of joining Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins at the top of winners for the race. The pairs four victories in the race means they are the most successful trainers in the race, with first winning it in 2004 and most recently in 2014. Mullins’ success is more recent, first winning it in 2010 and followed it up the year after. He has won it as recently as 2017. They’re wins have come with:

Paul Nicholls:

Sporazene (2004)

Desert Quest (2006)

American Trilogy (2009)

Lac Fontana (2014)

Willie Mullins:

Thousand Stars (2010)

Final Approach (2011)

Wicklow Brave (2015)

Arctic Fire (2017)

With success for Mullins and Nicholls it also means success for Ruby Walsh, who has ridden for both and has won the race for both trainers. Walsh has won the race on four occasions, three times for Nicholls and once for Mullins, making him the most successful jockey outright in the race. The specific list is below:

Ruby Walsh:

Sporazene (2004)

Desert Quest (2006)

American Trilogy (2009)

Final Approach (2011)

Having won the last five renewals between them, Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton are obviously the trainers to take note of again come 2020. In that time, Harry Skelton has won twice as has Paul Townend, so them combining with their respected trainers could provide a winning combination again. Paul Nicholls hasn’t won the race since 2014 but he clearly knows what it takes, so his runners should also enter calculations.