County Handicap Hurdle (Grade Three)
Updated: Mar 17, 2021
13:55 Cheltenham 19/03
This is a race where I will be waiting until the day to place my bets, with extra places on offer I like to pick a couple at bigger prices and hope they can place for me. 5 and 6 year olds have a decent record in this with 9 of the last 12 being either 5 or 6. The last six renewals have either been won by Willie Mullins or Dan Skelton, they have a few in here at the top of the market, Third Time Lucki for Skelton, and Ganapathi and Blue Lord for Mullins. Skelton also has Cadzand here who was a favourite last time out in the Betfair hurdle on the back of a couple of wins but disappointed that day.
Pic Dorhy impressed with his return to hurdles. He will be one of the higher rated horses here off of 154 so hopefully connections might side with a claimer. Nicholls had high hopes for this horse having been recruited from France with a big reputation. He disappointed in the triumph that year. He bounced back to form when winning the Betfair Hurdle off of 146. This campaign he went chasing, competing in some decent races, secont to Le Patriote before falling in a race which Chantry House won. He then was pitched into a grade two running well for a long time but weaking into fourth. I was interested to see him entered in a decent little handicap at Taunton last week where he was 4/1 in the morning off the race before drifting out to 9/1 at the off. He raced wide throughout held up behind the rest before flying home with a strong finish, barring a mistake at the last he would have won that day, losing momentum and being beaten a head by the other Nicholls horse. I think the plan last time wasn’t necessarily to win having been taken wide and held up and being weak in the market. So the fact he ran so well is a massive bonus. It’s a tough ask for him to carry such a big weight here, but he’s a horse I love and hope he can repay the faith as he did at 33/1 in his last big field handicap!
Ciel De Neige for Willie Mullins who has won 3 in the last 6 renewals of this. He was 3rd in fred winter, and good second to Pic DOrhy in the Betfair last year, he disappointed in this last year at 6/1 but was expected to run well, ignoring that the has since ran had a couple of easy rides in two valuable handicaps in Ireland where he wasn’t ridden to win. In between these runs he won a maiden at 1/8 favourite. I think his mark has been kept down intentionally for this and gets in off a lower mark than the previous year. He’s only 6 and has ran well at Cheltenham previously, considering Pic Dorhy beat him less than a length when rated 146 with Ciel rated 135, I’d have to give him a chance to reverse that form with Pic DOrhy now rated 154 and Ciel only 137. You do have to take it as though he’s been left on a good mark to target one of these races, but that would be typical JP wouldn’t it. As 6/1 joint favourite for this last year, he’s running off a lower mark and now 25/1. Definitely worth a place chance and stranger things have happened. Any money for him on the day would be worth taking note of.
Another Mullins runner, Tiger Tap Tap, is also interesting to me. He disappointed in this race last year off of 139. He was a neck second to Sir Erec on debut back in 2018, he then contested the spring juvenile in early 2019 and then the Triumph at the festival. Clearly highly regarded he then contested a group three on return the following campaign. He then won a couple of races stepped down in class before being thrown back in to grade company. He then ran in this last year but disappointed, possibly inexperienced in big fields like this. He ran a couple of times in the summer on the flat where he wasn’t at his best but has had two very good runs in my opinion back in handicap company. His fist run he raced in rear in a big field handicap before staying on strongly into sixth. Last time out in a similar race he was again given a quiet ride, staying on into pressing the leaders before making a slight mistake at the last. I don’t think the plan was ever to win that race and I think a horse who was thought so highly of as a young horse may well have been targeting this race and goes off of a much lighter rating than last year. At 33/1 I will have an each way play on him.
Edit - Gowel Road off of 137 at 16/1, I don’t think this horse is done improving yet. With only 4 runs to his name he has scope for improvement and is definitely unexposed. His first start was a good 1 length second to Bear Ghylls who is running in the Ballymore. He then disappointed when only managing fourth next time out with Good Ball winning that day. In his next two starts he won in good style off top weight in a handicap by 5 lengths, and then winning a class three novice hurdle by 5 lengths reversing form with Good Ball by 7 lengths. I think he has potential to be a 145 horse plus and may have a bit of wiggle room left in terms of his mark. With Paddy Power going 6 places I’ll be backing with them.
Ciel De Neige 25/1 0.5pts each way
Gowel Road 16/1 0.5pts each way 6 Places