The McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle is a fiercely competitive handicap run over an extended two miles on the new course and there are eight flights of hurdles to jump. Traffic problems often occur here and can produce nightmare scenarios for both runners and riders as they can often find themselves blocked in at certain stages.
Willie Mullins and Dan Skelton have been the trainers to focus on in recent years having won the last six of the last seven renewals between them (three apiece). It often pays to ignore exposed runners with seven of the last ten winners having nine or fewer runs over hurdles. A trend that has emerged in recent renewals is that ex-flat horses seem to be coming to the fore and as French horses seem to be developed at an enhanced rate, they seem to be well suited to this type of challenge.
|2022||State Man||5||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2021||Belfast Banter||6||Pat Fahey||Kevin Sexton|
|2020||Saint Roi||5||Willie Mullins||Barry Geraghty|
|2019||Ch’tibello||8||Dan Skelton||Harry Skelton|
|2018||Mohaayed||6||Dan Skelton||Bridget Andrews|
|2017||Arctic Fire||8||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2016||Superb Story||5||Dan Skelton||Harry Skelton|
|2015||Wicklow Brave||6||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2014||Lac Fontana||5||Paul Nicholls||Daryl Jacob|
|2013||Ted Veale||6||Tony Martin||Bryan Cooper|
|2012||Alderwood||8||Thomas Mullins||Tony McCoy|
Below are selected runners who are competing in the County Hurdle. I shall provide some recent form notes to help point you in the right direction of identifying the winner.
Trainer: Emmett Mullins
Jockey: Mark Walsh
Has been a profitable addition to the Emmet Mullins team since leaving Declan Wall late last year. The seven-year-old picked up wins at Doncaster and Wincanton in decent handicaps at similar trips. He was last seen finishing runner-up to Aucunrisque in the Betfair Hurdle. There is no doubt he is a talent and no surprise if he were to put his best foot forward here. A lack of experience around this track hasn’t stopped the last three winners of this race and he could well go close.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Paul Townend
Has impressed on his two most recent starts with wins at Navan and Naas. Crucially he has experience in large fields and that experience will be invaluable here. He remains progressive and could well give Willie Mullins another winner in this race. He put some six lengths between himself and Imagine on his most recent run and there should be plenty more improvement left in him.
Trainer: Dan Skelton
Jockey: Harry Skelton
A winner of two low-grade races late last year and was then upped in class to compete in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in January. A well-backed favourite that day, but could not get to Rock My Way who got the first run on him. With no experience in large fields and no flat experience to fall back on, he may well struggle in a race of this nature.
Trainer: Harry Fry
Jockey: Jonathan Burke
Warmed up for this by being a good second to I Like To Move It over this course and distance in the Greatwood Hurdle last November. You only have to look as far back as 2016 when Superb Story plotted an identical path to victory as Harry Fry will be well aware. The Irish have had a firm grip on this race in the last three years, but he does look to be the best that the home contingent has to offer. The form of the race has been boosted again following subsequent wins for the winner as well as First Impression, Mark Of Gold and Sonigino. He has to be rated a threat to all.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Kieran Callaghan
Now in the care of Willie Mullins having left the care of Emmet Mullins. The nine-year-old won on his sole start for the Closutton handler when taking a handicap at Leopardstown just after Christmas. He pulled some six-and-a-half lengths clear of a decent field that day and there could well be more to come. He is also entered in the Coral Cup, but this could also be a viable target for him. If he runs he is likely to go extremely well having gained invaluable course experience in the Pertemps Handicap where he finished a solid fourth to Third Wind.
Trainer: Gavin Cromwell
Jockey: Keith Donoghue
Has gained two wins already this season at Galway and Navan. The most recent came in January when he got the better of Ifiwerearichman and Glamorgan Duke. It is difficult to assess just how good that form is though and others look to have stronger claims. He is clearly on an upward curve and if the ground were to turn soft, his claims would be enhanced. Based on what I have seen so far, he needs to improve again.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Mr P W Mullins
Has been a wonderful servant to Willie Mullins down the years and has run some great races here in the past. He had to settle for the runner-up spot in two Champion Hurdles behind both Epatante and Honeysuckle. This looks the more likely of his three potential entries and with his sights lowered, this race could be tailor-made for him. Willie Mullins won this with Arctic Fire who had a similar profile to Sharjah. He cannot be discounted and may well be the forgotten horse.
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Jockey: Nico de Boinville
Was a good second to State Man in this last season, but Willie Mullins surely knows how good that form is and what it would take to beat him again. He was last seen upped in class when contesting the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. On a line through I Like To Move It, Gin Coco would appear to have the beating of him also. He continues to move up the ratings but the handicapper may now have his measure.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Jack Foley
This type of race looks to be what suits him best as he was a fair second to Jeff Kidder here a couple of seasons ago in the Boodles Juvenile. He does have plenty of good form over this trip and he is well used to big fields. He doesn’t always give the impression that he wants to win but no surprise if he were to pop up in a race like this.
Trainer: Henry De Bromhead
Jockey: Rachael Blackmore
Has spent a lot of time in the wilderness and hinted at a return to form when last seen chasing home Gaelic Warrior in a good handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival. He was far from disgraced in this race last year when fifth in a big field to State Man and the yard has signalled that they are in fine form following wins by Maskada and Honeysuckle this week. On that basis, it would be foolish to rule out a big run.
Trainer: Chris Gordon
Jockey: Tom Cannon
Genuinely surprised to see him entered here as all of his wins have come on flatter tracks such as Newbury, Aintree and Kempton. He is a really progressive and likeable sort but the handicapper may just have him in his grip now. He has been raised twenty-one pounds in the space of a year. Likely to run very well before fading.
Trainer: Joseph O’Brien
Jockey: Brendan Powell
Was beaten a distance by Marine Nationale in a Grade One Novice Hurdle and by Brazil on what was his seasonal reappearance. Has it all to do here as his form seems to be tailing off rather than improving. Others also have far more experience of this track and his chances look to be remote.
Trainer: Terence O’Brien
Jockey: Michael O’Sullivan
Comes into this pretty fresh on the back of a nearly six-month lay-off. The more rain that falls looks to be against him as all recent wins have come on ground described as good. He has a top claimer on board though in Mikey O’Sullivan and they could grab minor honours.
The McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle Race Forecast Prices
9/2 Filey Bay, 7/1 Hunters Yarn, 8/1 Sharjah , 8/1 Gin Coco, 10/1 Winter Fog, 10/1 Pembroke, 12/1 Aucunrisque, 12/1 Path D’oroux, 16/1 First Street , 20/1 Ballyadam , 20/1 Saint Sam , 20/1 Magnor Glory , 25/1 Prairie Dancer
The McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle Race Key Trends
6 of the last 13 winners were trained by Willie Mullins
18 of the last 22 winners were novices or second-season hurdlers
13 of the last 19 winners used to race on the flat
8 of the past 15 winners have returned at SPs of 20/1 or bigger
The McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle Race Tips
Sharjah could well be the one here. The nine-year-old has this as his only realistic target this season and we know that he certainly acts on the track. He still has a bit of class about him and as his trainer has shown in the past, he can get the older types right back to their very best for this race. With Winter Fog and Hunters Yarn also in the field, Willie Mullins holds very strong claims here
Selection: BACK SHARJAH E/W @ 8/1 WITH BET365
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All odds are correct at the time of writing.