DATE POSTED: 14th March 2019
Yet another Willie Mullins victory looks possible as we hit the final day of action at Cheltenham 2019, but which one his three runners could come out on top?
DAY FOURFor Friday's race we take a look at The County Hurdle in detail. This is another highly competitive handicap and should produce a worthy winner.
This is our last posting for the 2019 Festival and we are concentrating on the County Hurdle, worth £56,000 to the winner. The Irish have won it 9 times since 2000, 8 within the last 11 years and Willie Mullins trained 4 of those including when his Arctic Fire stormed home under 11st 12lb in 2017, a feat that last happened over 50 years ago In fact, only 4 winners have carried over 11st since 1960.
Last year the prize went to Dan Skelton's Mohayeed, carrying 10st 11lb, who attempts to follow up again this year, but to hump 11st 12lb this term is surely asking too much.
Two of the three Mullins' runners will also carry over 11st. 5yo, Mr Adjudicator, is set to carry 11st 8lb, which is quite a burden He's only had 5 hurdle runs, including 3rd in the Triumph last year and makes his handicap debut tomorrow. He hasn't run this year and it looks like he's been aimed at this race for a while. However Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Whiskey Sour, who was 3rd in this race last year under 10st 13lb, and returns to jumping after a few runs on the Flat, including the Ascot Stakes, Ebor and Cesarewitch. The 6yo carries 11st 3lb this time and has been heavily backed so it would be foolish to ignore him, despite the weight burden, especially as the Irish have won 8 of the last 12 runnings.
Willie's other runner is the 7yo mare, Cut The Mustard, who seems to be improving and could go well with 10st 10lb on her back.
We shouldn't forget that Paul Nicholls has won this four times in the last 13 years. His runner this year is 7yo Capitaine, who responded to recent wind surgery with a win at Taunton last month. However we aren't sure that is enough to win in this company.
5yo's and 6yo's have a good record in this, between them having won 18 of the last 25 races and we are going to home in on these. There are eleven runners in this category (including Mr Adjudicator). We can narrow this down by noting that 10 of the last 18 winners were in the top 5 in the betting, and that 10 of the last 12 did not win last time out.
This leaves us with 5yo MONSIEUR LECOQ, who has the added attraction that he ran a cracker to finish 2nd in the Sandown Imperial Cup last month and could strike a blow for the ladies, as he's trained in Devon by Jane Williams and ridden 3lb claimer Lizzie Kelly, who has ridden the horse in all his races apart from last week.
Another 5yo who could well appear in the frame is Gordon Elliottt's CLAIR DE BEAUFEU, who was 4th on his handicap debut in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown, which is a good pointer.
Whatever you may choose, you are likely to get a double figure price, so we hope you can hit on the right one. Here's hoping!