HORSE RACING boff Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) enjoyed an excellent Thursday at the Festival. Here he pinpoints his best bets for the County Hurdle.
County Hurdle | 14.10 Friday | Channel 4
A big field, 2-mile handicap and a race I really like.
This is a hugely competitive line-up and there will be a fierce pace from start to finish. As always with handicaps here, there will be no hiding place and you ideally want a hardened handicapper in your corner. So who fits the bill?
Great Field (8/1 Ladbrokes) is one from one for Willie Mullins, and this JP McManus owned runner is sure to be very popular in the market.
I watched him on his sole Irish start and he could be called the winner a long way out. He was priced up a lot shorter in the morning that day and was weak in the betting before the off – this makes me think connections expected him to improve for the run so he is very interesting here.
However, that was a weak race and the ground is very different. And although he could be a ‘handicap good thing', my gut tells me to take him on.
Starcitech (10/1 Ladbrokes) is a very interesting runner from the David Pipe yard and I wouldn't put anyone off him here.
He was second in the Betfair Hurdle after a long absence and would have finished closer but for trying to run through the last hurdle.
Starcitech was placed last season in the Martin Pipe at the meeting and is still improving. I expect him to run a good race but find one or two too good.
The one I like here is the Dan Skelton-trained Superb Story (7/1 Ladbrokes). He goes in to this off joint-bottom weight and I can see many reasons for backing him on Friday.
Superb Story was second in the Greatwood Hurdle behind Old Guard in November, and that is good form as Old Guard has gone on to greater things. That race was over course and distance and showed he likes Cheltenham and would have finished closer but for finding trouble in running.
He also goes well fresh. He won on his hurdling debut, and off a six-month break, so the fact he's been off the track for four months is a huge positive for me.
Superb Story has had this race as his target for a while and I'll be backing him each-way.
County Hurdle – Superb Story (7/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
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