The Inside Track on the County Hurdle
The County Hurdle is often the least exciting of the handicaps at the Festival, and at a glance this year’s renewal looks no exception.
The first port of call for finding the winner of this is often the Imperial Cup, but Baltimore Rock probably won’t get in, Gassin Golf definitely won’t get in and Regal Encore, who was the worst kept secret since the ending of The Titanic, is too slow to keep up even if he could get in.
Therefore, I’ll be looking elsewhere this season and, given that he has half his yard entered, Willie Mullins’ weapon of choice could be the answer.
Ireland’s greatest male since Bono has stuck Diakali in there at the head of the weights, and I suspect that he is in there to ensure that ARCTIC FIRE sneaks in just under the 11st mark.
There was clever money about for Arctic Fire in the lead up to the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury, but the son of Soldier Hollow ducked the race at the five-day stage (suggesting that the money wasn’t actually that clever after all).
Connections obviously think that they have a well-handicapped beast on their hands and, given that they deal with 95 per cent of the good horses in Ireland, who am I to argue?
As for a rag, one who looks on a handy enough weight is Nicky Henderson’s Cash And Go. Given that the County Hurdle is on the last day of the Festival, this would be an aptly named winner because everyone in Coral Towers will be grabbing their cash and going straight to the pub if they bet the winner, and he’s now 3lb below the mark he was on when getting chinned in the 2012 Greatwood Hurdle.
He doesn’t stand much racing and he chucks in a few stinkers, but on a going day he has the ability to go close here.
Selection: Arctic Fire
Alternative: Cash And Go