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2013 County Hurdle tips – No ifs and buts back O'Meara hurdler

The County Hurdle (2.05pm) is the sort of race bookies love with a big field of handicappers going hell for leather over two miles. 

What are the key trends?
This has been a great race for the Irish in recent years with five of the last six renewals falling to them. First or second-season hurdlers have the best record suggesting you want a horse who is reactively unexposed and therefore yet to reveal their true hand to the handicapper. Weight stops horses and that is no more true here with only two horses carrying more than 11st 2lb to victory in the last 25 years. The trainers to note are Paul Nicholls – three winners, two seconds and a fourth in the past nine years – and Philip Hobbs with two wins, plus the third and fourth in 2011. 

Who's favourite?
Cotton Mill ran out in last season's Neptune Novices' Hurdle (won by Simonsig) when still in with a chance, and found only My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle last time. He was clearly in need of the run that day and has had his whole season geared towards Cheltenham, so this class act must go well despite his big weight of 11st 8lb.

Which horses provide the stiffest challenge?
Where to start?! How about with the David O'Meara-trained Ifandbutwhynot who won here at the Paddy Power meeting from the re-opposing Tanerko Emery (who has boosted the form several times since), and impressed again when scoring at Musselburgh last month. Willie Mullins has struck in this race twice before and he's represented this time round by Tennis Cap, who was last seen out when putting a big field of handicappers to the sword at Leopardstown. Ted Veale has some useful form on soft ground in Ireland this season so connections will be hoping the weather forecast is correct.

Any outsiders worth considering?
Olofi won the Racing Post Hurdle and is not of it off a 6lb higher mark at his favourite track. Ranjaan and Edgardo Sol represent trainer Paul Nicholls and are therefore entitled to respect. The latter horse boasting a superior track record, having yet to finish worse than third in three appearances, including when runner-up in this race 12 months ago. He's been chasing this season and is rated 8lb lower over hurdles, with Harry Derham's claim reducing his weight by a further 5lb.

Best bookmaker offer?
Several bookmakers are offering enhanced place terms on the race and rightly so with 28 runners lining up, and they include Boylesports, who will also refund your losing stake if your horse finishes second beaten by half a length or less.

Where to watch live?
Place a bet of at least £0.50 (£0.25 each-way) with bet365, click on the live streaming icon next to the race and watch it live on your PC.

What's the verdict?
This looks a big ask for Cotton Mill under his big weight and he's readily opposed. It usually pays to side with an improving sort in this race and IFANDWHYBUTNOT fits the bill nicely. His win here at the November meeting, on very soft ground for the track, now looks a strong piece of form and he can be forgiven a poor run on his next start as he didn't get the fast pace he needs to aim at - assured here. Timmy Murphy gets on well with him and he has a nice racing weight of 10st 7lb, so I'll be disappointed if he can't get placed at the very least.

Recommended Bet:-

Ifandwhybutnot 2pts each-way @ 11/1 BetVictor (five places)

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2013 County Hurdle tips – No ifs and buts back O'Meara hurdler

The County Hurdle (2.05pm) is the sort of race bookies love with a big field of handicappers going hell for leather over two miles. 

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