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Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle Preview

In a race that often goes to a young, progressive performer who is a step or two ahead of the handicapper, five and six-year-olds dominate the list of winners having taken 37 of the last 46 contests between them, so concentrate upon the junior divisions.

Horses carrying weights of 10-13 or less have won seven of the last 10 renewals, whilst despite the fact that an average field size of 26 runners might make you think this could be a punters' graveyard, favourites have a fair record, winning four contests and being placed in two other renewals. Indeed, 32 of the last 34 races were won by horses priced at 16/1 or less.

Aside from Martin Pipe (now retired), Paul Nicholls boasts the best record in recent times having saddled two winners and two placed horses, whilst Nicky Henderson would like to add a winner to the three placed horses he has trained. Jockey Timmy Murphy has a 'quiet' style of riding which suits some horses in the mayhem of a largefield hurdle event with riders jostling for position.  Timmy's quiet technique methods has produced 16/1 and 10/1 winners of late, accompanied by horses starting at 25/1 and 12/1 that finished in the money.

Master trainer Vincent O'Brien, after whom this race is named, sent out 44 European Classic winners on the Flat, but was just as effective at sending out big-race winners over jumps. At Cheltenham, he saddled Cottage Rake to a hat trick of victories in the Gold Cup (1948 to 1950), whilst sending out Hatton's Grace to perform a similar feat in the Champion Hurdle (1948 to 1951). In total, O'Brien registered 23 Cheltenham Festival winners.

Numide and Aachen are both towards the head of the betting for this year's contest and fit the profile of likely winners. Preference is just for the former, whose price could shorten up dramatically if he runs well in the Imperial Cup at Sandown the weekend before the Festival gets under way. He is currently a 9/1 chance with Sky Bet


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Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle Preview

In a race that often goes to a young, progressive performer who is a step or two ahead of the handicapper

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