Horse Racing betting

The second race on Day Four of the Cheltenham Festival, the County Handicap Hurdle (registered as the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle) is an exciting Grade 3 race that has been held at Cheltenham since 1920.

With a wide-open field and a history of shock winners, this one is perfect for horse racing fans who love backing an outsider.

Race information

The County Handicap Hurdle is a Grade 3 National Hunt hurdle race for horses aged five or older. Its entrants usually comprise a wide variety of handicappers, with the number of participants typically in the high 20s.
Run over 2 miles, 1 furlong (3,420 metres), there are eight hurdles to jump, over the course of the race, which is hosted at Cheltenham’s New Course – a left-handed track.

The purse stands at £90,000, with winner taking home £45,560.

Cheltenham County Handicap Hurdle jockey jump

Race history

One of the oldest races, the County Handicap Hurdle was first run in 1920 (then called the County Hurdle), and the first winner was Trespasser, ridden by George Duller. The event was cancelled during World War Two and, on its return, was redubbed the County Handicap Hurdle. The race was cancelled three times during the 1940s and 1950s because of bad weather.

In 1995 the name of the event was changed in full to the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, paying tribute to a legendary Irish racehorse trainer on his retirement. O’Brien was a big name at Cheltenham, claiming 23 wins here in all.

In 1995 the name of the event was changed in full to the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, paying tribute to a legendary Irish racehorse trainer on his retirement. O’Brien was a big name at Cheltenham, claiming 23 wins here in all.

Traditionally, the County Handicap Hurdle was the Festival’s very last race, but in 2009 it was placed earlier on in the day to ensure better surface conditions.
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Race records

No horse has won the County Handicap Hurdle more than once since 1946, but Cheltenham favourite Ruby Walsh is the most successful jockey to have competed, with four wins in total. Walsh was victorious in 2004 (with horse Sporazene), 2006 (Desert Quest), 2009 (American Trilogy) and 2011 (Final Approach).

Paul Nicolls is the leading trainer, having won with Ruby Walsh three times (2004, 2006, 2009), and a fourth time in 2014 with Lac Fontana and jockey Daryl Jacob.

Cheltenham Festival County Handicap Hurdle

Race trends and statistics

You’ll need to hold your nerve − this fast and furious race is possibly the most competitive event of the entire Festival. Front runners are frequently pipped at the post by horses that start out towards the rear.

Because of the wide range of handicappers, winners are tough to call in the County Handicap Hurdle. You would be wise to back a five- or six-year-old, as very few horses over the age of seven have won. The youngsters are the minority in the lineup, so focus on these first.

Weight is also important – most winners have been lighter than 11st 8lb.

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With a record-breaking second win still up for grabs for the competing horses, this race is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. As the race has a reputation for being an intense and gripping affair, the County Handicap Hurdle is one of the most exciting events Cheltenham has to offer.